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Full text of "Storytelling, an act of liberation : children's (and teenager) books as means of liberation, support or suppression : analyzing books from German speaking countries (Switzerland, Austria, Germany) from before 1900 and after 1968"

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Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen, 1965 

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the 

requirements for the degree of 





© Copyright by 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2013 

Approved By 


Dr. Angela Bauer 

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Dr. Kwok Pui-Lan 

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Dr. Carter Heyward 

Reader C^ajJuX^i/ u] A/A\]n.*M^> 
Dr. Lucretia Yaghjian \S 

We have to overcome boundaries, not with a gun in our hand, but by telling stories. 

Liv Ullmann. 
Norwegian actress 

Women may hold a key to replacing violence with speaking, bringing private feuds into 
public places, and healing wounds which otherwise fester from generation to generation 
- in short, to establish democracy and healing. 

Carol Gilligan, 

American Feminist Psychologist 

Whether this is my end or a new beginning I have no way of knowing: I have given myself 
over into the hands of strangers, because it can 't be helped. And so I step up, into 
darkness within; or else the light. 

Margaret Atwood 
Canadian Writer 


To write a piece of work like this is impossible without the help of many fellow 
beings. It is my great pleasure to thank all those who enabled my writing. 

I owe a great debt of gratitude to Dr. Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza, Krister 
Stendahl Professor of Scripture and Interpretation at Harvard University, Divinity 
School, who encouraged me to come to Cambridge, MA after I had attended her 
summer semester lecture at Heidelberg University in 1 999 about "Feministische 
Hermeneutik." She showed me the way to the Episcopal Divinity School. 

At EDS I am greatly indebted to the whole community, faculty, staff, and 
students, who befriended me (Carmela D'Elia, Valerie Dixon, Marcie and Harrison 
Lynn Heidel, Harriet Kollin, Stephanie Mclntyre, Tom Miiller, Katherine O' Sullivan, 
Toni Scott, Sr. Shimizu Yasuko), made me feel at home (Krishna Agrawal, Brad 
Brockmann, Karen Coleman, Nancy Davidge, Betsy Ewalt-Tuttlebee, Thomas 
Eoyang, Gwen Griffith, Gretchen Grimshaw, Kathy Hanlan, Rosanne Hebert, Gordon 
Heier, Alan Hesse, Liz Magill, Steven Maki, Jeffrey Mills, Micael Mogren, Tupper 
Morehead, Anita Nesiah, Sun Ok-Park, Yohah Ralph, Mary Reath, Ann Rose, Bettina 
Schuller, Micki Shirey, Althea Smith, Adrien Stair, Katherine Stiles, Margaret 
Thorpe, Mpho Tutu, Marta Valentin, and the whole wonderful stack of 5 St. John's); I 
am particularly indebted to Marcie Lynn Heidel, Gordon Heier, and Micki Shirey for 
their support in handling the computer, as well as to Adrien Stair who proofread my 
thesis; I am deeply indebted to those who advised me (Beryl Minkle); encouraged me 
to sing (Jane Ring Frank, Suzanne Ehly); dance (Stephanie Mclntyre); paint (Angela 
Bauer); write poetry (Kwok Pui-Lan), apart from doing research work. I particularly 
thank the Dean of Student and Community Life, The Rev. Karen Montagno. 


I am immensely indebted to Dr. Angela Bauer, Associate Professor of Hebrew 
Bible, who performed the difficult splits between profound criticism, and at the same 
time coaxing and encouraging me in a wonderful way. She challenged me, and 
successfully re-established my active voice and the use of "I". Danke, Angela! 

Next to her it is Dr. Lucretia Yaghjian, Director of the Episcopal Divinity 
School/Weston Jesuit School of Theology WRITE Program, who with indefatigable 
friendship did not only advise me in all questions of "Writing Theology Well," but 
showed me different points of view in International classes and her WRITE program, 
not to speak of perpetually, forcefully, but gently encouraging me in times of misery. 
What would I have done without her? 

I am very much indebted to Dr. Kwok Pui-Lan, William F. Cole Professor of 
Christian Theology and Spirituality, who made me familiar not only with Chinese 
food, but with Vietnamese meditations, fascinating essays, and books, including her 
own in German. She as well supported me in manifold ways. 

Likewise I am indebted to The Rev. Dr. Carter Heyward, Howard Chandler 
Robbins Professor of Theology. Her great honesty and openness have shown me that 
women have to write courageously. Her love for nature and creation at large 
established a mutual relationship. 

I owe great thanks to The Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas, Professor of Mission and 
World Christianity, Director of Anglican, Global, and Ecumenical Studies, who 
encouraged me to find my personal roots and advised me in times of difficulty. 

Likewise I owe thanks to Dr. Gale Yee, Professor of Hebrew Bible, Director 
of Studies in Feminist Liberation Theologies, who introduced me to feminist 


liberation theologies in general and whose Monday Luncheon Lectures were a source 
of pleasure combined with learning. 

I am deeply grateful to Dr. Margaret Eletta Guider, OSF, Associate Professor 
of Religion and Society at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, who gave me a 
private tutorial in times when she had hardly any time. 

I am indebted to Steve Kuehler, Lecturer and Reference Librarian, who with 
unwavering patience made me familiar with a system of quotations so very different 
from the European one. Likewise I am indebted to Esther Griswold, Director of the 
Library, who advised me in questions of copyright, to the librarians Gene Fox, Ann 
Michaud, and Anne Reece (the latter with whom I did not only share the love for 
books but for singing, as well), and all the many students who took care of the 
circulation desk. 

I was shown great support in the Widener Library at Harvard; the Harvard 
Divinity School Library; The Gutman Library in Cambridge, MA. Likewise I was 
kindly and generously helped in the English Faculty Library, Oxford, Great Britain; 
the Universitatsbibliothek Heidelberg, Germany; and the Stadtbibliothek Heidelberg. 

I am very much indebted to the Bildarchiv PreuBischer Kulturbesitz for their 
kind permission to reproduce Josef Grassi: Konigin Luise; P. Friedel: Pastell der 
Rahel Varnhagen; Schadow: Prinzessinnengruppe; to the SchloBmuseum Gotha to 
reproduce the painting by Johann Heinrich Schroder: Luise Kronprinzessin von 
PreuBen mit ihrem Sohn Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm (IV.), 1 796; and to the National 
Gallery, London, Great Britain, to reproduce Paolo Uccello's "Saint George and the 


I am deeply indebted to Frau Oberstudiendirektorin i. R. Ursula von Rad, 
Herrn Dekan i. R. Werner Schellenberg, and William Watkins, Canon of St. David's 
Cathedral, Tyddewi, Wales, Rural Dean emeritus of Daugladdau, Anglican Diocese of 
St. Davids, Great Britain, who all wrote letters of recommendation for me. 

I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Verena Rutschmann, Schweizerisches 
Jugendbuch Institut, Zurich, and my friend Nora Kaufmann, who accompanied me - 
and not only then. 

I owe thanks to the sociologist Dr. Gert Steffens, for introducing Florian lilies' 
writings to me, and to his daughter Katrin Steffens for making me familiar with the 
"Fit For Fun" program. 

Likewise I owe thanks to Waltraud Vogt, WDR Koln, who kindly provided 
me with videos about the seventies. 

I am deeply indebted to my friends in Great Britain, Joy Bithell, who provided 
me with a copy of the Girls ' Own Annual, Katherine Firth from Australia, who 
scrutinized and proofread my texts, my German friends Monika Mertins, who 
discussed my subjects with me, Sabine Wagner-Sander who challenged my arguments 
as well as Ulla Strunz-Rauchenecker, Antonie Konig-Freitag, who encouraged me by 
her letters, Christa Fuchs, who helped me with computers and concerts, Christa 
Dosch, who insisted on vacations for me in her beautiful house at the Cote d'Azur, 
Dozentin Gertrud Kummer, who settled my negotiations with Berlin and Gotha 
museums, and Renate Schwarz- Wagner who always listened to me in difficult times. 

I owe thanks to Magalit Gai in Cambridge, MA as well, who made my life 
colorful and to whom I owe new insights into Judaism. 


All my thanks to Magdalene Horr, Eva Maria Pfisterer, Gertrud Ableitner, and 
Gabriele Busam-Brestrich, who in connection with my former Harvard fellow student, 
Sr. Emily Demuth, prayed for me. 

I am indebted beyond words to Dr. Barbara Haas, doctor for the body and the 
soul, and friend, who helped me overcome my writing block and kept me sane. 

I could not have done this project without the help of my friendly Heidelberg 
neighbors Brigitte and Chris Thieme, Eddie Urich, and Franziska Eckstein, the 
exceedingly supportive young bankers Gerhard Buhler and Wolfgang Schobel, who 
arranged all my monetary matters. 

Heidelberg stands for the great cartoonist, Marie Marcks, as well. She became 
the Feminist model of an elder generation to me. Dr. Peta Becker von Rose, my 
internist, as a doctor wrote about the role of Heidelberg's physicians during Nazi 
times and so encouraged my own writing about this time. In Dr. Ingrid Ertelt-Kircher 
I met with another supportive doctor. Her own studies on girls and young women 
prove the injuries of the soul at a very early stage. 

It is time to thank my twin-siblings Christiane and Eike, and Eike's wife 
Gudrun, whose Sunday phone-calls kept me up. Eike and Gudrun provided me with 
material on the history of the 19 th century, for which I am grateful. I am very much 
indebted to Gudrun who designed maps and provided me with photographs of the 

But I am not only indebted to the living. My deep felt gratitude is for my late 
friends Sibylle Grafin Blucher, who introduced me to the world beyond the so-called 
reality, and my au-pair-mother Valerie June Packwood, J.P., Dept. Ltd., with whom I 
shared a love for justice, literature, and an abhorrance of mathematics. Elisabeth 

Krippner, despite her 85 years, was proof of a connecting language between beasts 
and plants, the love for Russian literature, and fervent discussions about religious 

Above all I am indebted to my grandmother Georgine Luckhoff who made me 
survive after the birth of my twin-siblings. To her as well as to my "silent," unknown 
grandmother Hermine Schmidt I dedicate this study. 

The great pillars of support among the living, however, were my children Jost 
Andreas, Eva Christina, and Adelit, who encouraged me to do the project, visited or 
contacted me in the USA, phoned me, prayed for me, proofread, e-mailed, and got 
my computer going at innumerable times. 

I am indebted above all to God, who showed me the way to this new world 
which made it possible to heal and reconcile with the old world. 

Soli Deo Gratias. 








Exegetical Comments 58 


Johanna Spyri: Gritli 's Kinder and Heidi 65 

Gritli 's Kinder 67 

Heidi 74 

2 Kings 5:1-7 93 

Hesba Stretton and the Religious Tract Society 101 

Religious Children's and Adolescents' Literature in Germany: 

Ottilie Wildermuth 107 

Der Peterli von Emmental Ill 

German Tracts for Children and Adolescents 121 

Helene Christaller Die kleine Jiingerin 121 


Eros and Sexuality in Nineteenth Century Germany 131 

The Silly Teenagers' Stories 152 

Clementine Helm Backfischchens Freuden und Leiden 1 52 

The Poor Damsel in Distress 1 60 


Emmy von Rhoden Der Trotzkopf. 1 65 

Henny Koch Papas Junge 1 79 


Michael Ende Momo 1 97 

Christine Nostlinger Konrad oder das Kind aus der 

Konservenbiichse 211 

The Seventies and What Remained 222 


Anna Learns to Read 23 1 

The Maiden Without Hands 238 

Dorothee Solle Mystik und Widerstand 244 

Mysticism of Childhood 245 

Roots 261 


List of Illustrations 

Peter Friedel (1800): Pastell der Rahel Levin alias Friederike Varnhagen von Ense 
With kind permission of Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PreuBischer Kulturbesitz, 
Facing page 137. 

Johann Heinrich Schroder (1796): Luise Kronprinzessin von PreuBen mit ihrem Sohn 

Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm (IV.) Pastell 

Crown Princess Luise of Prussia with her son Prince Friedrich Wilhelm (IV.) 

["The Prussian Madonna"] 

With kind permission of the SchloBmuseum Gotha 

Facing page 136. 

Johann Gottfried Schadow (1764-1850): Doppelstandbild der Prinzessinnen Luise und 

Friederike von PreuBen 

Double Statue of the Princesses Luise and Friederike of Prussia 

With kind permission of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - PreuBischer Kulturbesitz 


Facing page 134. 

Josef Grassi (1758-1838): Konigin Luise 
Queen Luise 

With kind permission of the Stiftung PreuBische Schlosser und Garten Berlin- 
Brandenburg, Schlofi Charlottenburg 
Facing page 133. 

Paolo Uccello (1397-1475): Saint George and the Dragon 

With kind permission of the National Gallery, London, Great Britain 

Page 164. 

Photos of the "Arab Madonna" 

With kind permission of Toni Ellen Scott 

page 256 and 294. 

Map and every other photo 

With kind permission of Gudrun Schmidt 

All other paintings by Brigitte Lowe 




liberate, vt. la: to give release (as from restraint or bondage): set at liberty: let loose: FREE b in 
Hinduism and Buddhism: to provide with salvation or grant salvation to 

suppress, vt. la: to put down or out of existence by or as if by authority, force, or pressure b: to 
force into impotence or obscurity 2: to keep from public knowledge 1 

Is it necessary to write just another book on children's literature when there are 

numerous critical studies and essays already in existence? Who will benefit from it - if 

not the author solely - and why should it be written in English by a German, and in 


Although there are a number of valuable books on the general topic of children's 
literature, either in German-speaking countries or in the United States, there is no book 
which analyzes this literature from the view point of liberation, support, and 
suppression. As a former teacher of literature and religious education I have a special 
interest in language and questions of theology. Language can be a means of support when 
it is used for claiming justice, but at the same time it can hush up facts or veil them as in 
the history of my own people, during the Nazi regime. Religion has been a similar tool, 
liberating people from slavery, as the Book of Exodus tells us, but suppressing others 
such as Hagar, Sarah's Egyptian slave. Both language and questions of theology play an 
important role in children's books. 

All definitions are taken from Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Usage, 
unabridged (Springfield/MA: G&C Merriam, 1961). 

Children's books have a great influence in educating and providing children with 
models for their future role as adults. Western religion has been a primary source for 
models. Religion was the main force in the educational program of the 19th century, 
since it was believed to be linked with Divine power directly. It neatly separated those in 
power, mainly white men, from those without power, women and children, as I will 
shortly demonstrate. I am interested in those persons with less power, women and 
children, particularly girls. 

I believe that books have the power to perpetuate existing social patterns. They 
support the already existing class system or hierarchies: the good God, the good father, 
the good husband. German (Austrian, and Swiss) children's and teenage books before 
1 900 mostly tend to silence girls, in particular to mold them for their prospective role in 
society as an obedient wife and a perpetual mother. Carol Gilligan claims that "loss of 
voice was a symptom of loss of relationship" and continues that "Freud observed that loss 
of voice was the most common symptom of hysteria." This was a common explanation 
at Freud's time for "difficult" females. For Gilligan, however, "women may hold a key to 
replacing violence with speaking, bringing private feuds into public places, and healing 
wounds which otherwise fester from generation to generation — in short, to establish 
democracy and civilization." 3 My aim is to give voice to at least some of the numerous 
girls and women before 1900 in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and to bring their 

Carol Gilligan, "Remembering Iphigenia: Voice, Resonance, and a Talking Cure" In Edward R. 
Shapiro, ed., The Inner World in the Outer World: A Psychodynamic Perspective, (New Haven: Yale 
University Press, 1997), 15. 
3 Ibid., 12. 

silenced voices into the "public,",since to me the idea to "establish democracy and 
civilization" by this act is a most fascinating one. 

Moreover, to write in a language that is not my mother tongue can be like a 
shield. Under its cover I may observe more than in my own language and it may bring 
about aspects that were not hitherto known to me. The struggle to make myself 
understood in foreign surroundings might have its rewards in looking deeper into 
problems. To be away from my safe quarters can present me with a more critical eye and 
sometimes acts like a magic cap. I can watch, but at the same time I hide. By this I 
endeavor to be free from restrictions with regard to nationality or language. On the other 
hand I am fully aware of the fact that I belong to the privileged women of this world, 
since I am white and educated. Although I participated in the sufferings of Post- War 
Germany with its struggle for survival, I know that these needs have been brought about 
by my own country and were not the result of colonization, for example, as for women of 

Description of the Project 

It is a well known fact that women all over the world still have less economic and 
social power than men, although they represent more than half of the world's population. 
Within this generalization there are certainly differences in quality. For example, white 
educated women have more access to power than women of the so-called third world. For 
most nations the "question of women" (that is: lesser payment for the same kind of labor, 
less access to education or adequate jobs), is not even asked. How very little most people 

in my country, Germany, are aware of these problems, might be illustrated by two 
examples. They describe the way of "solving" problems for children, girls, in particular, 
or dealing with the role of adult women, the former girls of the educational process. Girls 
and women still have a smaller voice than men in today's Germany. 

The first example refers to Michael Ende's 1979 bestseller Die unendliche 


Geschichte (The Never-Ending Story): 

A significant example for an escape into fantasy is Michael Ende's The 
Never-Ending Story. This . . . bestseller is a cult book of adolescents and 
young grown ups, who partly want to compensate the socially, politically, 
and economically frustrating reality, but are looking for unconventional, 
creative solutions for such crises which originated in the previous 
plannings and strategems. But these solutions are hardly to be found in 
The Never-Ending Story, because Ende's hero Bastian ... learns through 
his imaginary reading adventures that he has to find himself by his own 
fantasy, whereas real changes are superfluous. 5 

The second example is taken from a Heidelberg exhibition in December 2000. 
The title "100 Years: Women at Heidelberg University" describes the positions women 
had and have in Heidelberg's university life. The exhibition notes the fact that the 
University of Heidelberg did not appoint its first female professor until 1959. Today, 
more than forty years later, there are 3 1 female professors, less than ten percent of all the 
professors, although more than fifty percent of all the students are female, 6 and 
Heidelberg is the oldest of all the universities in Germany. A university founded in 1386 
should clearly have more than ten percent of female professors. In more than five 

Michael Ende, Die unendliche Geschichte (Miinchen: Thienemann, 1979). 

In Reiner Wild, ed. et al., Geschichte der deutschen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur [History of 
German Children's and Adolescents' Literature] (Stuttgart: J. B.Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1990), 
358 [translation and italics mine]. 

hundred years there was time enough to think about a better proportion for female power 
and influence at this university. This example speaks for itself and calls for a more just 
distribution of the chances for women to participate in the upper academic positions. 

Both the chosen periods of time, until 1900 and after 1968, include children's and 
teenager books, among them the so-called "Backfisch-'' (the "silly female teenager") 
stories at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. One agenda of these stories was that 
children were to learn obedience and discipline. This can be seen even in small details 
such as table manners, where nursery rhymes showed children their precise place in 
society ("Kinder bei Tisch/ stumm wie ein Fisch", meaning "Children at table/ silenced 
like fish"). Children had to love their parents and to obey them unquestioningly. The so- 
called "Prussian virtues": discipline, obedience, fear of God, modesty, cleanliness, 
thriftiness, frugality were expected from every child. Children's stories illustrated this 
catalogue and were often the means of suppression. These "virtues" crippled children and 
adolescents. They took away any creativity. The bible was used as a tool of control and 
domestication by those who exerted power, the fathers and the husbands. 

In countless stories the Swiss author Johanna Spyri (1827-1901) employs an 
"orphanage/homelessness"-leitmotif (Heidi; Gritli's Kinder - Gritli's Children; Vom 
This, aus dem doch etwas wird - About This, who ends up being someone nevertheless; 
Rosenresli; Heimatlos - Homeless). All this is combined with a special "Christian" ethic 
of a "good God, [under whose reign] quickly and unexpectedly sorrow may be changed 

6 Schwetzinger Zeitung. 3 1 . October 2000, 1 8. 

into joy, just as quickly as joy may be changed to sorrow." Ottilie Wildermuth (1817- 
77) connects the Christian aspect with a social-critical aspect in her children's stories 
(Der Peterli von Emmental - Peter from Emmental). She is the only author of those 
examined, who views childhood with a critical eye. Bruno Mehmke's edited stories 
Christrosen (Christmas Roses) pursue a trivial, but deeply disturbing sentimental 
understanding of Christianity that can culminate in a child's death as a consequence of 
"Christian virtues." And it is no coincidence that this child, who stands for a sacrificing 
act, is a girl {Die kleine Jungerin - The Little Disciple). The catalogue of Prussian virtues 
was definitely in use until the sixties and possibly still is in use today in conservative 
settings. This mentality is corroborated by my personal experience, as well, and I will 
show its influence in the course of this thesis. 

In the education of girls chastity was added to this catalogue of virtues. Chastity 
was not required of young men; on the contrary, they were expected to "sow their wild 
oats." Girls, however, had to fit into the ideas of a patriarchal marriage which was 
supported by religion and economy. The religious aspect from Gen. 1 :28, "Be fruitful and 
multiply," in connection with Gen. 3:16 "Your husband ... shall rule over you" (possibly 
as a result of "women's sins") had been important for their grandmothers and mothers. 

Rosemary Radford Ruether's argument to "separate between the legal and the 


sacramental acts of marriage to bring about its 'redemptive' aspect," was certainly 
unheard of at those times and is hardly accepted even one hundred years later. Christian 

Johanna Spyri, Gritli's Children (Boston: Cupples and Hurd, 1887), 196. 

marriage is still understood as the perpetuation of the old role model, where one member 
rules and the other one obeys. Nevertheless, it will certainly be a profound means to 
unburden marriage from its unholy union of being both, a sacrament and an economic 
relationship. Marriage still awards most of the power to the one who is earning most of 
the money and prevents equality between two persons who, in my eyes, should be united 
solely by love and respect. Until the early 1 900s, the economic aspect of being provided 
for was based on the fact that education for women was scarce, particularly higher 
education. Women in Germany were not admitted to universities until 1908, fifty years 
after women had first been admitted to higher education in the United States. 
Consequently, many of the girls and women at that time had not received a formal 
education; they merely had access to teaching or caring professions, such as low paid 
employment as governesses or nurses (cf. Emmy von Rhoden, 1832-85 Der Trotzkopf- 
The Stubborn Child, vol. 2). 

Before 1900, in order to instruct girls in the higher society, the Backfisch (the 
"silly teenager girl") [sic] stories played an important role. These were stories about the 
education of young teenager girls, comparable to the education in Swiss "Finishing 
Schools," some of which are still in existence today. Their aim was to teach these girls 
good manners, good housekeeping, a certain amount of literature; but not too much, lest 
they should become too learned. All these novels end up with the heroine making a 
suitable match, suitable from the point of view of rank, money, and influence. Having 

Rosemary Radford Ruether, lecture on "Gender, Work, and Families: Ideology and Reality", 
Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge MA, 16 January 2001. 

been given her "polish," the girl is rewarded by an appropriate husband. This, as well as 
the domestication of girls, the breaking of their "stubbornness", is the sole message of the 
Backfisch-Stories. Their "teenager/marriage"-leitmotif is reflected as well in Clementine 
Helm (1825-1869) Backflschchens Freuden und Leiden (Silly Little Teenager Girl's Joys 
and Sufferings), Emmy von Rhoden (1832-1885) Der Trotzkopf (The Stubborn Child), 
Margarete Lenk Ein Kleeblatt (Trefoil), Henny Koch (1854-1925) Papas Junge (Papa's 
Boy). However, after 1968 most of these topics lose their importance. 

I chose the date of 1968 since it is the year of the so-called Students' Movement 
in Germany and France. An increasing anger at morality and ethical standards brought 
about the formation of consciousness in the sixties that led to the students' movement in 
1968. The younger generation strongly believed that the accumulation of riches could not 
be the sole goal in life. Since the country had lost its moral standards by systematically 
erasing the Jewish population, there was no "father" role model for the next generation. 
Thus the psychoanalyst Alexander Mitscherlich was able to speak about a "fatherless 
society."' The young generation of the sixties was interested in new ethics. 
Environmental damage became an issue for the first time. A new political party, the 
"Greens," established itself. People called undemocratic traits by their name and 
criticized them. For instance, the visit of the last Shah of Persia, Reza Pahlevi, whose 
regime was said to be undemocratic and plutocratic, led to riots in Berlin. These riots 

cf. Alexander Mitscherlich, Aufdem Weg zur vaterlosen Gesellschaft. Ideen zur 
Sozialpsychologie (Miinchen: Piper, 1963). 


resulted in the death of the student Benno Ohnesorg and the fatal wounding of the student 
leader, Rudi Dutschke. 

In addition, many of the younger students strongly objected to the Vietnam War, a 
war which destroyed the reputation of the United States in Germany. Until then the 
United States had been held up by many as a model of democracy. The straw that broke 
the camel's back, however, was the emergency legislation in Germany, which gave 
government far too great an increase of power. Student demonstrations started all over 
the country. There were daily sit-ins among pupils and students. 10 When I myself tried to 
organize a sit-in just to discuss the background with my High School pupils (grades 9— 
12), it nearly cost me my first job, because all the teachers involved were being reported 
to the Board of Education. If my headmaster at the time had reported me, I would have 
never got a job as a teacher again, since most of the teachers in Germany have the status 
of civil servants. Sit-ins were considered inimical acts against government and a breach 
of the civil servants' oath to observe the German Constitution. 

After 1968 children's and teenagers' literature changed. In one of his essays, Jack 
Zipes, then professor of German at the University of Florida, expressed this change in the 
title he chooses: "Down with Heidi, Down with Struwwelpeter, Three Cheers for the 
Revolution. Towards a New Socialist Children's Literature in West Germany."" 
Although the portrayal of women and girls in books published after 1968 clearly 

In German terminology, the term "pupil" is being used to designate students in primary and 
secondary education, whereas "student" refers to those in higher education. 

changed, young women still had to fit into certain cliches. Women's possible ideas of 
relationship (and, since gay or lesbian relationships were treated as practically non- 
existent, this concerned merely "straight" relationships) were dominated by male 
"revolutionary" ideas, for example "Wer zweimal mit derselben pennt, gehort schon zum 
Establishment" - (He who sleeps with the same woman twice, has become established). 
This was the time when unmarried men and women shared apartments, to the horror of 
their parents. But in most cases it did not mean sharing everyday household work. It was 
the women who generally had to clean the apartment or do the laundry. However, these 
years were the beginning of shared parenthood: children were brought up in so-called 
"Kinderladen" (a form of daycare center, where children were educated according to the 
ideas of Alexander S. Neill's "Summerhill School" in Great Britain). These children grew 
up with next to no restraints, which can be illustrated by the apocryphal remark of a 
child: "Do we have to do what we want again?" 'Anti-authority' was the keyword of the 

There were new topics and new questions for children's and teenager literature. 
The Austrian author Christine Nostlinger wrote about (anti-authoritarian) rebellious little 
teenager girls and boys {Konrad, das Kind aus der Konservenbiichse - Konrad, the child 
from the can); about Nazi times {Wir pfeifen auf den Gurkenkonig - We don't give a 
damn about the Gherkin-King), a book which, at that time, was almost breaking a taboo; 
or Judith Kerr's Als Hitler das rosa Kaninchen stahl (When Hitler stole the pink rabbit). 

Jack Zipes, "Down with Heidi, Down with Struwwelpeter, Three Cheers for the Revolution. 
Towards a New Socialist Children's Literature in West Germany," in Children's Literature 5 (1976), 162- 


Authors of children's books began to write about disabled children, who had previously 
been neglected, such as, Peter Hartling's Das war der Hirbel (This was Hirbel). There are 
books about environmental damage: JUrgen Muller Alle Jahre wieder saust der 
Prefilufthammer nieder (Year after year the pneumatic drill hits the ground), a topic with 
which no one had dealt before, or books about children of the so-called third world and 
their deprivation: Gudrun Pause wang Die Not der Familie Colder a (The misery of the 
Caldera family). Until the late fifties children were not only given the idea that their 
parents were ideal, but that the world in which they lived was also perfect. Some books 
are even programmatic in their title, for instance Das Nein-Buch fur Kinder (The Book 
Saying "No" For Children). However, as I have shown before, the period also fosters 
escape from unsolved problems into fantasy. 

But this project has its limitations. First of all, my thesis does not include the time 
from 1900 to 1968. 1 do not address the Weimar period, Nazi period, and post-war period 
in Germany. Secondly, I leave out the development of children's books in the former 
GDR since this aspect would be another topic. 

Quite a number of books analyze children's books of the Nazi period. The post- 
war period in general re-introduced reprints of those books before 1 900, since they were 
supposed to be "safe"; that is, without Nazi ideas and therefore approved of by the three 
Western allies America, France, and Great Britain. After 1945 not a single book in 
Germany could be printed without the consent of the allies. However, even contemporary 

A quotation generally known by teachers of that time. 


books translated into German, such as those of the Norwegian author Berte Bratt in the 
1950s, gave a very similar message, as did the reprints. Her advice to young women was 
to get married, have children, attend university, if you must, but be prepared to pay a high 
price - that is to stay unmarried. If you choose jobs, let it be "female" ones such as 
typists, milliners, cooks, or - if an academic - women medical doctors or teachers. 

All of these ideas can be found in Nazi times, too, although I do not wish to 
accuse Ms. Bratt of developing Nazi ideas. In Nazi times hardly any woman was allowed 
to attend a university. Joseph Goebbels, Secretary for Propaganda, described this 
restricted role of women succinctly: "A woman has the task to be beautiful and bear 
children." What a difficult life for all those who were not beautiful, were not interested 
in men, and were not able to bear children! When in the course of World War II women 
had to step in for the men at the front line in order to maintain the economy, they took 
subordinate jobs, unless they worked for the Nazi party. The Nazi party gave young 
women from socially lower classes the ambiguous opportunity to work in jobs as guards 
in concentration camps. These were mostly intelligent young women with next to no 
education who loved to exert power, as is shown in an interesting study on Opfer und 
Taterinnen (Victims and Perpetrators). 14 

The Soviets had another way: Their aim was the elimination of all "bourgeois" 
and "decadent" traits. So they forbade all the reprints of the time before 1900. It is 

Joseph Goebbels, cited in: Elisabeth-von-Thadden-Schule, Widerstand wider Willen (Heidelberg: 
Selbsrverlag, 1994), 47. 

Angelika Ebbinghaus, ed., Opfer und Taterinnen. Frauenbiographien des Nationalsozialismus. 
Schriften der Hamburger Stiftung fur Sozialgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts (Nordlingen: Greno, 1 987). 


interesting that after the GDR collapsed in 1990, all these books (for example Der 
Trotzkopf - The Stubborn Child) were reprinted and became bestsellers in those states 
formerly making up the GDR 

Prospective Readers 

I feel indebted to the generation of my grandmothers and my mother who helped 
us children to pull through in post-war Germany. They belonged to the generation of the 
so-called "Trummerfrauen" - debris women - who had suffered from two world wars, 
had supported building up Germany again and, lamentably, were excluded from the 
affluent society that they had helped to establish. Although they were strong during war 
and post-war times, their voices were silenced by those men who returned from captivity. 

By writing on women and children and, among them, girls in particular, I intend 
to reclaim their voices and image by showing how they have been misused and stylized 
to fit into the existing model of education prior to 1900. This model definitely played an 
important role in post-war Germany until the late sixties and has influenced the lives of 
numerous girls and women. 

I write for my former pupils, since they seem to be heading towards the old 
patriarchal system once again. One reason for this development may be the fact that there 
is a high unemployment rate in Germany (10% in general, up to 20% in the new Eastern 
States). Men are preferred as "breadwinners" again. Women have to content themselves 


with part-time jobs. Since the "women's question" (that is, low wages for women, 
preference of men when applying for a job) does not exist in the eyes of officials, it has 
not been dealt with. Households, where both partners have a full-time job are sneeringly 
declassified as "Doppelverdiener" - double earners - a nonsense in itself, since none of 
them has a "double" income. 

I write for my own generation in particular, whom the journalist Sabine Bode has 
described as "unauffallig" -inconspicuous: 

A generation that was never asked about their needs, remains dumb and 
inconspicuous, taking comfort from the thought that others suffered even 
greater hardships. While the grown ups ... accused all and sundry - be 
they those left in the rubble, refugees, widows, injured, POWs - their 
children were told, 'Be glad that you've survived. Forget all. Look ahead!' 
This did indeed happen. 15 

This early conditioning is certainly one of the reasons why a number of my 
generation, and among them particularly women, never questioned, never showed 
rebellion; why we simply accepted what was said about us, or what we were told to do. 
On the other hand, I also strongly believe that another strand that made women 
"inconspicuous" can be found in their early education, and there in the way society was 
portrayed for young children and teenagers through the medium of children's books. I 
can clearly trace it in my own socialization. At the same time my studies in psychology 
and history at the university enabled me to achieve a different point of view and to 
question what I saw. 


My Social Location 

I was brought up in a very conservative middle-class family, where men were 
blatantly given preferential treatment. Nobody ever even discussed it. Indeed, my 
grandmother taught me that "Women always take the road of subordination," but luckily 
she did not live in this way. Only when I became an adolescent did I start thinking about 
the discrepancy I noticed: a number of my women friends trained for a job, but only war 
widows actually worked for a living. The idea was to get a job "in order to have 
something to fall back on." Still, girls of my age were taught that it was much better to 
marry. Society pitied those women who had to work in order to make a living. The idea 
that any of them could love her work or would wish to work for her own money, her own 
freedom, was immediately ridiculed. 

I soon realized that only religion was the domain of women. On Sundays it was 
they who attended church (taking into account the fact that many men had been killed in 
the war). But women never played a leading role in the church as an institution. In winter, 
my grandfather, head of a small village school, regularly preached Sunday sermons when 
the rector of the parish was not able to plow through the masses of snow with his horse 
and carriage. My grandmother on my mother's side, a deeply religious woman, would 
have been far better suited, but as a woman she was not allowed to preach. Only since the 
1970s have women priests ministered in Evangelical churches in Germany, and in some 

Siiddeutsche Zeitung, 12/13 February 2000 - South German Newspaper, [translation mine]. 


states, for example in Bavaria, the male incumbent had to be asked for his consent as late 
as the 1990s. 

At the age of ten I was sent to a boys' High School, because it was a two- 
hundred-year old venerable institution which both my father and uncle had attended, also. 
We were 13 girls among 450 boys, and the teachers were all male except for the gyms' - 
and needlework teacher. I was the only girl in a class of 30 and soon learned what it was 
to be "only" a girl. Most teachers were convinced that girls were unable to grasp a 
sensible thought, and that they certainly were not gifted at all. The only exception was 
my music teacher. He even trusted me to be capable to sing the role of Agatha in Carl 
Maria von Weber's Freischiitz, and he was the only one who was genuinely sorry when I 
left that institution. 

The lasting impression I drew from my childhood was first of all that women are 
not as talented as men; secondly, that they are weak and, finally, that women do not attain 
important positions in life in general, (and in business-life in particular). For all these 
reasons women needed to marry. To achieve this, their main goal in life, they must never 
ever show that they might have any intelligence of their own. 

When I went to university, the situation did not differ very much from my 
experiences at school. In the 1960s only five percent of staff members were women 
professors, a number which has not changed dramatically until the present. Currently 
approximately ten percent of the professors at German universities are women. Sexual 
harassment was not mentioned then either. I still remember with shame and fury that a 


professor, whose course I had attended, answered my request to have an end-of-term- 
examination by his playing footsie. Faithful to the motto "It's only the woman's fault if a 
situation like this occurs," I tried to leave the room as soon as I feasibly could. Only the 
fact that I met a woman friend who noticed my state and asked "Did he play footsie with 
you, too?" helped me to cope with this awkward situation. In her final exams, the same 
woman was greeted by a renowned male professor with the words: "Another woman! 
That's just like the church!" By this he clearly protested against the overwhelming 
number of females he had to examine. 

I realize that my personal experiences don't necessarily hold true for all my 
female contemporaries. Nevertheless, I have found that a large number of them tell 
similar stories. What is the reason that large parts of a whole generation of women in 
Germany share these experiences? 

Many of those close to me shared a similar background: all of us had first-hand 
experience of the World War II, and suffered from its consequences. Many had either lost 
their home, or had been expelled from their native regions as refugees. Many of us had 
lost either father, uncle or other loved ones in the war. Our financial background was a 
unifying feature, too. None of us had money, many of us were malnourished, in particular 
those who were refugees. All of us were familiar with the experience that we had to 
"function" in crisis situations, that to show emotions was a sign of extravagance. When 
three-year olds are trained not to take their teddy bears into the shelter but rather a 
rucksack with their personal documents, this fact speaks for itself. 


Another trait which had a deep impact on me is the history of the German people 
some fifty years ago. When I found out what German Nazis had done to their own 
people, the German Jews, and other Jews, I was deeply horrified, but could not speak to 
anybody about it. This was another similarity existent in many German families: very few 
of the adults cared to speak about what had happened during the War. This could often 
have been due to shame, to guilt, to the feeling that they had failed to regard their 
neighbors' needs or because they wanted to establish the idea for their children that (at 
least from the day of the German surrender) the world was whole and good. This wall of 
silence strictly separated children and adults. Children were expected to control their 
emotions or better still, not to display any at all. So many of us did not dare to speak 
about our vastly disturbing emotions in the time of puberty. Many of us were actually 
denied our puberty. Most parents were overwrought because of the needs of daily life, so 
they did not want to deal with the fact that their girls and boys were on the way to 
becoming adolescents. There was no one with whom you could discuss the feelings of 
belonging to a people that had turned into monsters. I still remember very clearly my 
emotions when I was on my first school exchange trip to the Netherlands, or later to 
France and Great Britain. I was deeply afraid that I might have been recognized as a 
German and would have to face the guilt of my people. I did not dare - until today - to 
speak about the emotions of someone who feels that he/she was/is always "on the wrong 
side." When I came to Great Britain for a longer time, I deeply envied the British for their 
unbroken attitude towards their nation, although I was certainly not a representative of 
chauvinism. Whilst I am here in the United States, I experience the same ambivalence. 


To belong to a nation you can be proud of because of its struggle for justice, freedom, 
and welfare for all, such as, for example Sweden, is something deeply unknown to me. 

The experience of my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood was one of 
exclusion: I was excluded as a child in my school time because of my gender, I was 
excluded from belonging to the "right people" in my time of adolescence and adulthood 
because of the guilt of my people. But perhaps it is this position of an outsider, which 
enables me to look more strongly and feel more deeply when things are not what they 
should be. 

Why I Wrote as I Wrote 

Why do we tell stories? Some people tell stories to entertain. They themselves are 
in the limelight for a moment. Others tell stories to certain ends. They want us to be 
compassionate and give for the poor or feel sportive and buy a new, more powerful car. 
Some want us to join a party or another religion. Mothers and fathers tell stories to calm 
down their children, put them to sleep. But some tell stories so that their children and 
grandchildren will be familiar with the family's or the tribe's roots. 

My story telling is much linked with the latter form. My family comes from 
Lower Saxony in Germany, from the Weserbergland, that landscape where the brothers 
Grimm collected their fairy tales. Those were told on the estates along the river Weser 
and quite a number of them have a common European background. Jack Zipes 
emphasizes that "contrary to popular belief, the Grimms did not collect their tales by 


visiting peasants in the countryside ...Most of the storytellers .. were educated young 
women from the middle class or aristocracy." 

In my family story telling played an important role. My grandmother read biblical 
stories or fairy tales to me and my siblings, my mother chose books she thought to be 
suitable for adolescents, suitable from the point of view of making us familiar with the 
hardships of Christian missionary activities or naturalists like Amalie Dietrich (1821- 
1891). I loved the fairy tales better. I loved the spirit of unruliness and freedom they 
conveyed and the idea that human beings, animals, plants, and stones could share one 
common language sometimes. As a little girl I was convinced that one day I should be 
able to understand the language of snowdrops, since I was born on a Sunday, and Sunday 
children understood the language of plants, so the adults had told me. So I stooped as a 
three year old girl in order to hear the snowdrops jingle and so understand them (the 
German word for Snowdrop Schneeglockchen means Little Snowbell). It did not occur to 
me that the adults might have reported me wrong. I simply believed that I had to grow up 
just a bit more. 

Meanwhile I gathered a circle of listeners myself to whom I told fairy tales as 
soon as I had learned to read. Story telling soon became an act of liberation, because I 
had been transformed into a very shy child whose first acquisition was the art of making 
herself "invisible." I spent hours on our huge Yew trees or the attic, the only places where 
I could escape the adults and their sheer endless demands. By telling stories I found the 
means to become active and express myself. This was the only time when / could choose 


Jack Zipes, trans., The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, vol. I (New York: Bantam, 


and act according to my own wishes, because / chose the story. In this group I could find 
some sort of solidarity, however restricted and fragile, which otherwise I did not have. 
My father had made me skip third grade. So I was a stranger to the new classmates. The 
same happened when I was instructed for my confirmation which I had to undergo at the 
age of thirteen, whereas all the others were fourteen years old. Here again I was a 
stranger and even had to go by train to our small district town since the superintendent 
himself was in charge of it (to make sure that I really had the required "maturity"). He 
was a hard man who did not seem to love children but delighted in creating an 
atmosphere of anxiety and inferiority. So again it was best not to be seen. At that time we 
had to pass an examination before the whole congregation and here again my joy for 
story telling helped me overcome my shyness. I distinctly remember telling the 
congregation the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 29-37) without a faltering 
voice (which I often had). 

So story telling helped me to step out of my "invisibility" and got me some sort of 
solidarity with others. When today I recollect what stories I told, all of them seem to be 
strangely linked together. They were Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the Ugly 
Duckling, his tale of the Little Mermaid, Grimm's The Frog Prince Or the Iron Heinrich, 
and Wilhelm Hauff s Caliph Stork. Andersen tells us the story of a little swan that was 
brought up in a family of ducks, was supposed to be ugly and clumsy according to "duck 
standard," just as I felt clumsy and ugly when I started attending the High School for 
boys as an only girl. The Little Mermaid describes the next step: As she loves the human 



prince, she "sells" her voice in order to become human and be able to walk. Similarly I 
had lost my voice long ago, although to no prince. The only exception was my singing in 
the school choir. The Frog Prince Or the Iron Heinrich was not important to me because 
of the prince's transformation into a human being but because of the figure of the faithful 
Heinrich. In him I could and can see myself, a person who has been taught to be faithful - 
as I will show in the fairy tale of the Maiden Without Hands - but who has to get rid of 

1 7 

the "band around my heart" in order to be truly free. Caliph Stork marks a stage where I 
yearned for redemption. Like the caliph who was transformed into a stork because he had 
lost the word that would bring him back to his full human self, I longed for finding a key 
for transformation. Mutabor, the Latin / shall become transformed, marked the beginning 
of a search which has not yet ended. 

So the act of story telling liberated me personally to rediscover and reclaim parts 
of what I believe to be my true self. It got me some sort of solidarity with others. The 
Grimm's fairy tales, however, connected me with my own roots, the landscape I come 
from and its people, my ancestors. Not only the act of story telling became important to 
me, the stories themselves included elements of what I felt in those days and even today. 

For my thesis again I chose the act of story telling, this time from the point of 
view of an adult woman. When I started this process, I thought I would do it for my own 
generation solely, that inconspicuous society to which I already referred to in my opening 
chapter. Little did I know at that time how much my writing was connected with my own 

17 Ibid., 4. 


biography. Again and again my advisor and supervisor told me to use the word "I" 
(which I had hidden behind "you" or "one" to make sure that they did not include 
anything personal) or start using the active voice. "Unleash your voice," a workshop at 
the Episcopal Divinity School about voice and body showed me how much I kept back, 
and the difficult process of decoding my own messages, sometimes even hidden to 
myself, started. 

Superficially looked at, I could explain my decision of contrasting children's and 
adolescents' books from the 1 9 century and those from the seventies by the fact that I 
had inherited all my 19 century's books from my grandmother and had bought those 
from the seventies when my own children were small. They were there, so why not use 
them? But was that reaily so? 

I had read Heidi again and again as a child and later on, had felt raptures about her 
recovery, her going home to the mountains after Frankfurt, but at the same time 
experienced an emptiness when reading about what I shall call "the missionary child" 
part. The same refers to Gritli 's Kinder. Elsli had found a new home in that story, yes, 
but still she had to die because her story perhaps was a vehicle to transport Spyri's own 
grief about her only child's death. 18 

I was horrified by little Marie's fate, the girl who wanted to be "like Jesus." When 
I first read her story, I was of a similar age. Would I like to be like Jesus and become 
burned? No, I definitely did not want that fate but that was contrary to my Sunday 
school's education. 'Teh bin klein/ mein Herz mach rein/ soil niemand drin wohnen/ als 


Jesus allein" (I am small/ purify my heart/ nobody shall dwell in it/ but Jesus alone), so I 
prayed at night. Why could not Jesus share my heart with my beloved grandmother? One 
of the songs I had learned at Sunday school concerning the discipleship of Jesus equally 
irritated, scared, and haunted me for a long time: "So nimm denn meine Hande/ und fuhre 
mich/ bis an mein selig Ende/ und ewiglich/ ich mag allein nicht gehen,/ nicht einen 
Schritt . . . .LaB ruhn zu deinen Fiifien/ dein armes Kind;/ es will die Augen schlieBen/ und 
glauben blind" 19 (So take my hands/ and guide me/ until my blessed ending/ and 
perpetually/ 1 don't want to go on my own/, not a single step . . .Let rest at your feet/ your 
poor child/; it wants to close its eyes/ and blindly believe). I could not understand why I 
should be unable to walk on my own and combined it with the line : "Let rest at your feet 
your poor child; it wants to close its eyes and believe blind." For me this meant that I had 
to become blind literally in order to follow Christ (why was the child called "poor" if not 
for its blindness?) and that therefore Jesus had to guide me. The horrifying stories in 
Christrosen convinced me that my explanation was true and it took me a long time to find 
out the real intention of that song. So Christrosen struck another autobiographical note. 

The Silly Teenagers ' Stories were linked with my social education. Although 
written nearly three quarters of a century earlier than my own adolescence they still 
comprised traces of my own upbringing, like the importance of marrying at all costs, of 
finding a "suitable" husband, from the right social background. Similar to the importance 
of giving up my "I" for Jesus to guide me, the secular "I" with its own wishes and needs 
must be given up for a husband and his well-being. 

I am indebted for this thought to a conversation with Dr. Verena Rutschmann, Schweizerisches 


All my life I had been taught to be a good daughter, sister, wife, mother, but never 
ever to be I myself. I had to cross the Atlantic, the "mighty waters" I shall speak about 
later on, in order to find myself. So the choice of the books I explore in this thesis is one 
deeply linked with my own biography. 

On the other hand I do want to give voice to the inconspicuous society, I want to 
bring "private feuds into public places" as Carol Gilligan describes it, because "to 
establish democracy and civilization" has become the most important task in this world to 
my belief. We are private and social beings. I myself had great hopes in Germany's 
Students' Movement of 1968. The two stories I chose for the seventies, Monro, the child 
who could not be corrupted, and Konrad, the child who had to accept change in order to 
remain true to himself, include this message of liberating authenticity. It is probably no 
coincidence that I chose a girl and a boy as representatives, because I still believe that 
this world can find its balance only when both genders work together and give up 
competition, rivalry, and power constructs. 

So the choice of my books mirrors my autobiography and my hope. But as so much 
in these stories is linked with the fate of others and as I myself am a social being as well, 
my writing comprises more. By finding out about the motives and intentions of the 
selected stories I want to put them into the larger picture of the modeling and educating 
of girls and young women in the 1 9 and 20 centuries. 

Each story has a message of its own. Some messages can be seen as encouraging 
models (Peterli; Konrad), some of them are deeply disturbing {Die kleine Jungerin). 

Jugendbuch Institut, Zurich. 


Liberation takes place where the intentions of these stories can be revealed, where their 
ethic values can be laid bare as a power construct which in reality wants to enslave. For 
me the act of disclosure is the most important first step that can lead to liberation. A 
human being who sees through the intentions of groups, of single persons, of messages 
has more freedom in choosing or acting. 

Another purpose I can see is that the telling of stories about ourselves helps us not 
only to understand ourselves better but others as well. Someone who honors me by 
sharing her/his story with me will not wage war against me. So Liv Ullmann is right: 
"We have to overcome boundaries, not with a gun in our hand, but by telling stories." 
This is the noblest reason for story telling. 

Are the chosen stories a means of liberation and support or of suppression? 

Rhetorical Models and Methodology 

In the conference on Religion and the Feminist Movement which assembled about 300 
women, Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza stated that the Doctor of Ministry program at the 
Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, MA had been established for women's education. 
As I have participated in this program, I benefit from what feminists of former times did, 
and I acknowledge this fact in deep gratitude. Therefore it will not come as a surprise that 
feminist writing will be my main source in establishing rhetorical models and their 

19 Text: Julie von Hausmann ( 1 825- 1 90 1 ). 


7 1 

In the Worterbuch der feministischen Theologie {Dictionary of Feminist 
Theology) Nicole P. Zunhammer defines hermeneutics as the "science which deals with 
the exegesis and interpretation of scripts, texts, statements, and facts. At the base of this 
science is the fact that there is a tension of space and time between the draft of a text and 
the interpreter/interpretess, which on top of that will be complicated by a different 
horizon of understanding." So there cannot be science pure or science verified, 
whenever and wherever language is dealt with. 

For Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza "Feminist hermeneutics (from Greek 
hermeneuo, "to interpret") is best defined as theory, art, and praxis of interpretation in the 
interest of wo/men (women and men). While wo/men of faith always have interpreted the 
scriptures, feminist hermeneutics is a newcomer in theology. . . feminist hermeneutics 
attempts to reconceptualize the act of interpretation as a moment in the struggle for 
wo/men's liberation." So feminist hermeneutics adds another element: the struggle for 
liberation for women and men. It does not work with those methods developed by 
centuries of male interpretation only, but proudly uses those instruments that until now 
have been belittled as the "feminine touch," meaning the use of the right half of the brain 
as well. To Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza "[a] critical feminist hermeneutics of liberation 
utilizes not only historical-, literary-, and ideology-critical evaluative methods... [i]t also 

November 1-3. 2002. Women's Studies in Religion Program. Harvard Divinity School, 



Elisabeth Gossmann.ed., et al. Worterbuch der feministischen Theologie (Gutersloh: Verlagshaus 

Ibid., 183 [translation mine]. 

Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, "Feminist Hermeneutics" in Letty Russell and Shannon Clarkson, 

GerdMohn, 1991). 
Ibid., 183 
23 Elisabeth ! 

ed., et al., Dictionary of Feminist Theologies (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 99. 


employs methods of storytelling, bibliodrama, poetry, painting, dance, music, and ritual 
for creating a "different" religious imagination." 24 

I will use all of the "four rhetorical strategies of analysis: suspicion, 
reconstruction, evaluation, and imagination" 25 in my thesis. 

In her essay on "Methodologies" Rebecca Chopp underlines that "Feminist 
theological methodologies" share the method of a "pragmatic critical theory," which she 
defines as a "theory that is historically and socially contextual. It does not attempt to 
make universal arguments or constructs that will hold for all times and places." For her 
the "critical theory us[es] the symbols, images, and concepts involved in that situation." 

But feminist interpretation (and particularly that of theology) does not end up by 
using intellect and imagination. Hong Kong born feminist theologian Kwok Pui-Lan tells 
us that "Asian women theologians begin to use their indigenous symbols, legends, and 
rituals in their theologies. . . [They] have used the myths, legends, and cultural resources 
from Asia to reappropriate biblical stories." This "reappropriation" has led to a 
fascinating and highly encouraging shift in the interpretation of Mary, for example, who 
is "redeemed .. from a docile, sanctified, and gentle mother to a self-defining woman ... 
She accepts the challenge of the Holy Spirit and acts as redeemer for human salvation. 
For Asian women, Mary symbolizes a woman who yearns for liberation of the oppressed 




Ibid., 100 [italics mine]. 

Ibid., 100. 

Rebecca Chopp, "Methodologies" in Russel, Dictionary, 181. 

Kwok Pui-Lan, "Feminist Theologies, Asian" in Russel, Dictionary, 101. 


people." Here again the tools for Asian feminist theologies are "music, poetry, dance, 
drama, and storytelling," ,and again they enable liberation and renewal. 

Feminist methodologies root themselves in women's experiences which Ada 
Maria Isasi-Diaz describes as the "locus and source of women's liberation theologies," 
and she underlines: "[b]ecause ultimately feminist theologies are about liberation of all 
women, it is precisely liberation understood in a holistic sense - that is, liberation at the 
structural as well as at the personal level, at the ideological level .. as well as at the 
historical level - that offers the basis for determining whose experience to privilege: 
those of women who benefit the least in a material, psychological, or religious sense." 
Feminist liberation theologies are based upon the experiences of many women. Therefore 
at their best they offer no domination of one group, race, social background about the 
other. They comprise diversities or - as Isasi-Diaz puts it: "Privileging the experiences of 
others means that differences have to be understood, valued, and embraced in such a way 
as to lead to engagement and interaction." So women's experiences have to end in 
action and not to be content with passive reception. The topic of my thesis, Storytelling - 
An Act of Liberation is based on women's experiences, the stories many of them have 
told, including my own story. 

Mitzi N. Eilts defines story as "the articulation of one's experience in verbal 
narrative ... in song, poetry, fiction, (auto)biography, liturgy, and sacred texts... stories 
are the fabric of the chronicles of history and the essence of religious sacred writings: 

28 Ibid., 102. 

29 Ibid., 102. 

Ada Maria Isasi-Dias, "Experiences" in Russel, Dictionary, 96. 
31 Ibid., 96. 


narratives of human experience in shaping reality. The hearing, telling, naming, and 
inclusion of women's stories is necessary to doing our theology... Finding one's voice 
and speaking/hearing the stories of others whose existence has been silenced... they are 


considered the key to moral agency, key to full participation in society and history." 

At the conference for Religion and the Feminist Movement as many as 300 
women and a few men listened to the different stories of women from all kinds of 
background and cultural contexts, listened to their experiences, woundings, which 
sometimes caused anger and wrath, but very often mourning, and the craving for justice. 
But as I noticed, nearly all of these women excelled in a perfect sense of humor. None of 
them gave the impression of defeat, however deep the wounds may have been. It was this 
struggle for justice going on despite age and injuries that impressed me most. 

Stories have to be told in a uniting language. In her book Und ist noch nicht 
erschienen, was wir sein werden. Stationen feministischer Theologie. {And what we will 
be has not yet been revealed. Stages of Feminist Theology) the German feminist 
theologian Dorothee Solle entitles one of the paragraphs in the chapter Wer bin ich (Who 
am 1)1 Die neue Sprache suchen (Looking for the new language). Here she speaks about 
her experiences as a student of theology herself: "This academization of theology, in 
addition mostly combined with male display behavior, admits thinking only in 
determined terminologies and excludes by a prescribed degree of abstraction that which 
[existentially] is ontologically moving. Through this abstractness, however, it hides its 

Mitzi N. Eilts, "Story" in Russel, Dictionary, 278 [italics mine]. 


own political functions. For me this was something from which I suffered much. 
Concretization, incarnation, that is to say substantiality will be avoided in this abstract 


realm of thoughts."" Quite a number of women, including myself, have met with this 
sort of language which excludes spontaneity, imagination, creativity, and leads to 
dissatisfaction and sometimes emptiness. Solle continues: "Male theology, meaning that 
institutionalized theology which in a long process has strongly disclaimed the female 
parts of the soul, is a theology of the head which presents itself in ready-made sentences, 
in condensates from experience therefore. Female for me would be to ask: Which 
experiences are behind it actually? What has brought you there?" 34 Solle emphasizes the 
fact that human beings today have given up communication. So for her "religion is one of 
the great languages of humankind." Quite a number of the stories told in my thesis deal 
with religion. But often their language and understanding is used as a means of 
suppression. So the new language still has to be found. 

This new language has to be based on the experience of many of us and it has to 
include all parts of us, so it must not split into brain versus heart. Both of them are 
needed, neither is superior. 

The philosopher Hans Georg Gadamer, compatriot and fellow citizen of 
Heidelberg (until his death in 2002), wrote about the use of language: "We regard our 
task as rather that of deriving our understanding of the text from the linguistic usage of 
the time of the author. The question is, of course, to what extent this general requirement 

Dorothee Solle, Und ist noch nicht erschienen, was wir sein werden. Stationen feministischer 
Theologie (Stuttgart: Kreuzverlag, 1987), 155f. [translation mine]. 
34 Ibid., 159 [translation mine]. 

Ibid., 159. [translation mine]. 


can be fulfilled. In the field of semantics, in particular, we are confronted with the 


problem of the unconscious nature of our own use of language." For Gadamer it is 
necessary to get back to a "historical horizon": "The task of historical understanding . 
involves acquiring the particular historical horizon, so that what we are seeking to 
understand can be seen in its true dimensions." 7 This is what a number of feminist 
theologians tried to do, for example Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza in her book In Memory 
of Her: A Feminist Reconstruction of Christian Origins. In a way I try to follow a 
similar path when I reconstruct the origins of German tract stories or attempt to find 
traces of a common moral understanding throughout the Europe of the 19 th century, 
rooting themselves on the same interpretation of religion. Gadamer looks at the "process 
of understanding a real fusing of horizons (Horizontverschmelzung), which means 
that as the historical horizon is projected, it is simultaneously removed." 39 

By using the tool of a hermeneutic circle {hermeneutischer Zirkel) Gadamer 
emphasizes: "A person who is trying to understand is exposed to distraction from fore- 
meanings (Vor-Meinungen) that are not borne out by the things themselves... Thus it is 
quite right for the interpreter not to approach the text directly, relying solely on the fore- 
meaning at once available to him, but rather to examine explicitly the legitimacy, i.e. the 

Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, Originally published as Wahrheit und Methode 
(Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1960). The translation was edited by Garrett Barden and John Cumming (New 
York: Seabury Press, 1975). 
37 Ibid., 270. 

Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Reconstruction of Christian Origin 
(New York: Crossroad, 1 994). 

Hans Georg Gadamer, 273. Original text, 289. 


origin and validity, of the fore-meanings present within him." 40 Exactly this method, the 
hermeneutics of suspicion, is employed by various feminist theologian writers. 

Like the spectator in a Greek drama, the interpreter has to become part of the text, 
has to belong to it (Zugehorigkeit), and at the same time has to remain distant: "[W]e 
spoke of the way in which the interpreter belongs to his text and described the close 
relationship between tradition and history that is expressed in the concept of effective- 
historical consciousness." 41 For Gadamer "[t]he significance of the hermeneutical 
experience is rather that, in contrast with all other experience of the world, language 
opens up a completely new dimension, the profound dimension whence tradition comes 
down to those now living. This has always been the true essence of hearing, even before 
the invention of writing, that the hearer may listen to the legends, the myths and the truth 
of the ancients." 4 This exactly is also part of feminist theological writing which involves 
not only writing but listening to the voices of the past and the present, thus opening up 
completely new dimensions. 

The German sociologist Jurgen Habermas chooses the topic of myth in order to 
exemplify the "claim to universality with our Occidental understanding of the world." 43 
He continues: "In archaic societies myths fulfill the unifying function of world- views in 
an exemplary way - they permeate life-practice. At the same time, within the cultural 
traditions accessible to us, they present the sharpest contrast to the understanding of the 
world dominant in modern societies. . . With respect to the conditions for a rational 

Ibid., 237. Original text. Ibid. 252. 

Ibid., 416. Original text. Ibid. 434 [italics mine]. 

Ibid., 420. Original text. Ibid. 438 [italics mine]. 


conduct of life in this sense, they present an antithesis to the modern understanding of the 
world." Habermas sees the end of this development in a devaluation: "A devaluation of 
the explanatory and justificatory potentials of entire traditions took place in the great 
civilizations with the dissolution of mythological-narrative figures of thought, in modern 
age with the dissolution of religious, cosmological, and metaphysical figures of 
thought." 44 This goes hand in hand with the attempt of getting away from the body, with 
the neglect of its needs, with the building up of the structural and structured as a 
counterweight against the "chaos" of creativity and spontaneity. It is the struggle of 
rigidity versus abundance and ends up in the "lovelessness of the objectified cosmos" 
([Max] Weber, [1864-1920, German sociologist and political economist]). 45 

To Habermas it is "[t]he Protestant ethic... [which] fulfills necessary conditions 
for the emergence of a motivational basis for purposive-rational action in the sphere of 
social labor. With the value-rational anchoring of purposive-rational action orientations, 
it satisfied . . . only the starting conditions of capitalist society; it gets capitalism 
underway, without, however, being able to secure the conditions for its own 
realization." 46 

For me the question arises whether the construct Protestant ethics leading to some 
sort of capitalism is not connected with that male-centered rationality Dorothee Solle 
speaks about. In his chapter on Reconstruction and Interpretation in the Social Sciences 

Jurgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1, Reason and the Rationalization of 
Society Trans, by Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press. 1983), 44 [author's italics]. 

44 Ibid., 68. 

45 Ibid., 203-242. 

46 Ibid., 228. 



Habermas speaks about language "Hermeneutic watches language at work, so to speak, 
language as it is used by participants to reach a common understanding or a shared view. 
The visual metaphor of an observer who looks on, however, should not obscure the fact 


that language in its performative use is embedded in relationships." In Solle's 
description of the theologian academic language used in her time as a student, there was 
neither understanding, nor a shared view. There was the power differential between those 
in command of a dominating language, designed and dictated by men, and those left out, 
if they did not choose to adapt (which in reality was no genuine choice at all, since no 
alternative language was accepted). In fact, "to participate in some ... communicative 
action in the course of which the sentence in question is used in such a way that it is 
intelligible to speakers, hearers, and bystanders belonging to the same speech 
community" 49 did not take place, because the persons involved did not belong to the 
"same speech community.'" According to Habermas, language serves three functions: 
"(a) that of reproducing culture and keeping traditions alive (this is the perspective from 
which Gadamer developed his philosophical hermeneutics), (b) that of social integration 
or the coordination of the plans of different actors in social interaction ..., and (c) that of 
socialization or the cultural interpretation of needs." The writing of feminist theology 
tries to fulfill all these elements, thus trying to establish a speech community of equals. So 
there is the aim of democratizing language in order to make it intelligible which 
distinguishes feminist theological writing from the average academic writing. Whether 

Jiirgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans, by Christian Lenhardt 
and Shierrv Weber Nicholsen (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990). 


Ibid., 25 [author's italics]. 

49 Ibid., 23f. 


this goal can always be realized is another question. In my thesis I employ these means 
exactly, because giving and receiving voice can only work on the base of equality. 

Habermas does not only stress philosophical and sociological aspects, but uses 
those from psychology as well. He emphasizes that Freud's attempts on self-reflection 
"could credibly claim legitimation as a scientific procedure in a rigorous sense." 31 For 
Habermas "psychoanalysis joins hermeneutics with operations that genuinely seemed to 
be reserved to the natural sciences" and continues: "Freud always patterned the 
interpretation of dreams after the hermeneutical model of philological research. 
Occasionally he compared it to the translation of a foreign author ... It was no accident 
that Dilthey took biography as the starting point of his analysis. The reconstruction of 
the structure of a life history that can be remembered is the model for the interpretation 
of symbolic structures in general." 3 

So writing and psychoanalysis share the same elements. They have to do with 
language, with symbols, and its interpretations. But "the technique of dream 
interpretation goes beyond the art of hermeneutics insofar as it must grasp not only the 
meaning of a possibly distorted text, but the meaning of the distortion itself.' 04 

In all persons affected, these distortions were established at a very early stage, in 
the age of childhood. These children's personal rights for well-being and development 
have been grossly neglected or violated, depending on the degree of abuse. In the 19 th 


Ibid., 25 [italics mine, brackets by the author]. 

Jurgen Habermas, Knowledge and Human Interests, trans, by Jeremy Shapiro (Boston: Beacon 

Press, 1971), 214. 

Wilhelm Dilthey, 1833-191 1, German philosopher. 

Habermas, Knowledge. . ., 2 14f. [italics mine]. 
54 Ibid., 220. 


century children, particularly girls and/or young women, were supposed to look out for 

the welfare of others. But this was not limited to the females of the 19 century only, as I 

am going to prove. The Swiss psychoanalyst Alice Miller writes that 

[i]t took decades for me to recognize cruelty for what it is, to write about it and 
not let my newly gained awareness be undermined by the pressure of society. 
Society chooses to disregard the mistreatment of children, judging it to be 
altogether normal because it is so common ... I have come to understand that the 
brunt of society's ignorance is borne by former children who, like me, were 
intimidated by their parents so forcefully, so skillfully, and above all at such an 
early age that even as adults they are still under the sway of this treatment and try 
to make excuses for it. 

As Freud came across children's and young women's abuse by society so did 
Miller. This is what Miller found out about society's reaction: "As I began to shift from 
writing about children to lending children themselves a voice, I encountered .. [society's] 
hostility directly. Prominent periodicals, for instance, eager for me to submit an article, 
lost all interest when I informed them I would write about family violence.' 06 But Miller 
did not yield to society's pressure as did Freud but went on writing about families, their 
hidden cruelties, and the importance of an "understanding witness," meaning a person 
who would attest towards the child the evil that had been done. How important this 
testimony of evil is we can see in South Africa's process of repairing the victims' dignity 
before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

But Miller saw and sees the political dimensions in the upbringing of those 
children as well. Broken children will continue to break others when they themselves are 
adults. She saw them in Nazi Germany, and concludes: "If battered children such as 

Alice Miller, Pictures of a Childhood, trans, by Hildegarde Hannum (New York: Farrar, Straus, 
andGiroux. 1986), 10. 


Ibid., 18. 


Hitler, Eichmann, Hoss, etc., have been able to destroy human life on the monumental 
scale history clearly indicates they did, then it is only logical to ask how beneficial an 
influence children who are not battered or abused can have on the world when they grow 
up." For her "[tjhose who need not fear the truth about themselves, who have not felt (or 
no longer feel) compelled to protect their parents by means of self-deception, will not 
ward off the truth about others or deny others' suffering." 7 Feminist theological writing 
wants to give voice to those who have been silenced for their own sake, for society's 

In her essay "Writing Cultures, Enculturating Writing at Two Theological 
Schools: Mapping Rhetorics of Correlation and Liberation," Lucretia Yaghjian, Director 
of the WRITE Program at the Episcopal Divinity School and the Weston Jesuit School of 
Theology, develops four movements in the rhetoric of liberation, taught at EDS/ The 
first movement, writing stories, comprises "hearing, or writing of stories, one's own and 
those of others" as I have done in this thesis. The second movement foots on 
interrogating and analyzing stories and circumscribes my questions of what is liberating, 
what is supporting, and what is suppressing in the analyzed stories. The third movement 
has the title writing rites. Here my autobiographical story about Anna, who learns how to 
read and write, my Missing Link story, fits in. The fourth movement, rewriting tradition, 
comprises the writing of my own experiences in connection with Dorothee Solle's 
Childhood Mysticism. Yaghjian stresses: "Moreover, claiming the authority to rewrite the 

Ibid., 27. 

Lucretia B. Yaghjian, "Writing Cultures, Enculturating Writing at Two Theological Schools: 
Mapping Rhetorics of Correlation and Liberation," Teaching Theology and Religion, 5,3 (July 2002), 


tradition is intimately connected with the gift of claiming one's own writing/speaking 
voice rather than assuming a more detached, dispassionate academic persona in the 
writing of theological papers.' 09 

I claim my own writing voice in the process of this thesis. And I can even offer 
the "initiatory dream" Lucretia Yaghjian speaks about. 60 Since my father's death in 1982 
I dreamt the same dream again and again for years, with only slight variations. I dreamt 
that suddenly I found rooms which belonged to me and which I had never entered, since I 
had forgotten their existence. These rooms could be everywhere, from the attic to the 
basement. I analyzed that these rooms were calls to be creative, either by painting or by 
writing. The dreams stopped in the year when I finished my thesis. 

But I had another dream in the process of writing about rhetorical models and 
methodology. I dreamed that I went to university in my present days: There I accidentally 
meet an acquaintance, very elegantly dressed, who overtakes the long line of applicants 
and meets someone, apparently belonging to the higher ranks of academia. As she is 
allowed to pass immediately - which I notice with envy - 1 decide to follow her but ask 
her: "How many are waiting still?" She answers: "Nobody is in front of us." We both go 
along when suddenly a man appears with rectangular sunglasses. Both, my acquaintance 
and I, wear sunglasses as well. I notice that the man carries a machine gun with which he 
shoots a woman. My acquaintance is untouched but I am horrified, take down my 
sunglasses, and ask him why he did it. He laughs and explains that this is his job. Then he 


Ibid., 137. 

Ibid.. 136f. 



shows me photos; it is always the same picture: a woman, completely wrapped in gauze, 
lies on a bed in a bent position. She always appears in white. 

Then the scene changes, and we are in a sort of canteen. The food that is served is 
all in red. I choose red beans. My acquaintance heaps two huge pieces of red meat on my 
plate, without being asked. I tell her: "No, I don't want that. This is the meat of society." 
I put it back again and awake. 

My interpretation of this dream is the following: The acquaintance in my dream is 
a highly educated woman, wife of a theologian, who strongly prefers intellect to emotion. 
When I once told her about an experience I had with God, her answer was: "Make sure 
that you don't end up with fundamentalism." Her full integration into the academic world 
of my dream is proved by the fact that she did not have to wait like all the rest. 

The diary - or better "nocturnal" in which I keep writing my most important 
dreams - speaks about the painting of impotence as early as 1994. There I painted a 
woman in the shape of a mummy, wrapped in gray layers of gauze with inscriptions on 
them like "Always be honest until your cool grave." The woman was crowned with a 
garland, ending in silver funeral bows. In the background silver pine trees a la Bocklin's 
Island of the Dead 6I rose. On top of the women silver clouds sailed, the clouds of 
illusions. In 2001 in Cambridge/MA I painted a series of five pictures for my sermon on 
Genesis 3. There again I painted a woman wrapped in gauze. This time the mull wore 
inscriptions of theological statements like "Mulier taceat in ecclesia" - woman is to keep 

61 Arnold Bocklin, 1 827 - 1 90 1 , Swiss painter. 


silent in church - or "woman, vessel of all evil," in short, all those biases by which 
women were silenced. 

The man with the rectangular sunglasses is a representative of a male (academic?) society 
which "kills" women. By taking down my own sunglasses I start to see the world as it 
really is and at the same time claim to be different from that society I belonged to so far. 
Sun glasses are imperative requisites of the "Fit for Fun"-society I am going to write 
about. By asking the gunman about his motives for his senseless murder, I overcome my 
anxiety to be shot as well. I risk to inquire after the truth. This truth is simple and trivial: 
"It's my job." So this man - like many other men before and after him - has/ have 
murdered and will kill again, but not men. Women only are his/their target/s. 
The canteen-scene underlines the new process of understanding. I refuse "the meat of 
society," I do not want to incorporate (in the literal sense) this "gift" of society. It is "red" 
meat, bleeding(?) meat, acquired by injustice and the death of fellow creatures at large. 
On the other hand I am fully aware that I need and depend on society's "gifts" such as 
"kindness," "support" and in a wider sense that of "education" altogether. The dream 
only marked the fact that I am no longer willing in taking (a) all of society's gifts and (b) 
to accept them uncritically. This is a genuine dream of liberation, of feminist liberation, 
analyzed with the means of feminist liberation theology. 

Survey and General Outlook 

I begin my circle of writing and interpreting with a sermon I wrote on Genesis 3, 
the fall of Adam and Eve. This is a story of etiology, a narration which has been designed 


to explain a certain states of affairs: here the expulsion from paradise. But it is more. For 
me it is a story of a lost partnership which includes "the Spirit of yearning for mutuality", 
meaning "to cultivate a more truly mutual relation." Even if a balanced relationship 
between human beings never existed, this story might be read as a craving for its being 

An Eve looking for knowledge and deciding independently had to be chastised. 
The fact that it was she who took the initiative and could even convince her husband must 
have been seen as something exceedingly dangerous in a patriarchal society. What evil 
could happen if this was to become the raw model for other women? What would this 
mean to a relationship of men and women, no longer defined by hierarchy? But worse, 
this portrait of an unequal partnership became the raw model for many marriages in 
which "he shall rule over [her]" (Gen. 3:16), thus strengthening patriarchy, hierarchy, and 
enabling the loss of identity in the women concerned. On the other hand this became the 
model for the respective children of these marriages. Boys started despising their mothers 
because this was often the way they saw their fathers treat their wives. Girls learned that 
males counted more than females. So Genesis 3 was not only the beginning of the end of 
a (perhaps) partnership of equals, it was perpetuated in the innumerable generations to 
follow, all claiming that it was God's will, because it was written in the bible. In the 
history of suitable prototypes for the educating and modeling of girls even Mary in the 
Second Testament proved not to be the adequate model. Although Mary was equally self- 

Carter Heyward, Saving Jesus from Those Who Are Right: Rethinking What It Means to Be 
Christian (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), xiv. 


determined as Eve, she was not admitted as a prototype for women and girls, either. Mary 
had to become the hermaphrodite construct of an eternal virgin and at the same time, 
mother. Her own rebellious traits which are still to be seen in the Magnificat (Luke 1 :46- 
55) were wiped off. Her courage to say "yes" to the message of an unknown, unfamiliar 
envoy from a celestial realm was transformed into an act of exemplary and everlasting 
obedience. The overcoming of her own fears at a stage and age where most young 
women still need guidance and her acting free and authentic was not mentioned, because 
a woman with a mind of her own was and is still seen as something dangerous. 

The narration of the lost partnership is followed by the stories about the lost 
parents. Both, Gritli 's Kinder and Heidi deal with orphaned children. Gritli 's Kinder 
show children on earth which to Spyri's belief are better kept in heaven. I demonstrate 
that contents and language are full of cliches, that the ideals of "God" and "heaven" are 
untrustworthy. The children's problems remain unsolved, they are without voice, a mere 
foil. The message that girls cannot act authentically is delivered in Gritli 's Kinder. Elsli, 
the substitute child for the deceased Nora, has no choice of her own. As a poor half 
orphan she has to be grateful to be taken into a rich house. When she supports the family 
of the poor fisherman by her own choice, she is guilt-ridden, because she acts on her own 
(a girl should always ask for permission). The question of her own social background 
(being the daughter of a poor day laborer and being exploited after her mother's death, 
simply because there was nobody else to do the work which had to be done in order to 
survive as a family) is not solved by transferring her to a rich house in a foreign country. 


Elsli never acts for her own good, she probably does not know herself at all. So the 
message is deeply disturbing and definitely not liberating for the upbringing of girls who 
read about her fate. 

The "classic" Heidi, which in part I (Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre) has a 
liberating aspect in those passages where Spyri depicts the consoling and healing 
"landscapes of the soul," deals with the education and socialization of girls. It teaches its 
readers, mainly female, that girls and women in particular have to submit their own 
wishes to those of others or, worse, not even think about wishes and needs for 
themselves. The religious trait emphasizes the role of what I call the missionary child or 
adolescent. This comprises the second part of Heidi: Heidi kann brauchen, was es gelernt 
hat. A possible biblical background of this topic may be 2 Kings 5:1-5, the narration of 
Naaman and the nameless Hebrew slave girl. Where in 2 Kings 5 this young woman can 
play a positive role by delivering the message that someone of power and might in this 
world like the general Naaman can be liberated if he listens to the least powerful, the 
Hebrew captive, and the whole power construct is turned upside down, the "missionary" 
Heidi does not have a choice of her own. She is caught in the net of a woman-to-be 
without education and provision. She will be provided for in the end in exchange for her 
company. Both her grandfather and the doctor from Frankfurt rely on Heidi to nurse them 
in their old age. 

How important the topic of performing missionary activities on children and 
turning them into missionaries themselves was for the 1 9 th century will be seen by 


looking at Hesba Stretton and the Tract Society, followed by German tracts 

The German tract story of Die kleine Jiingerin who wanted "to be like Jesus" and 
got burned to death shows both the threatening and the crippling results of such an 
education for women and girls. Marie cannot follow her own inner voice because it had 
been crippled and silenced right from the beginning. Her social circumstances and the 
fact that she is a girl teach her obedience and self sacrifice until death. The minute lapses 
into anger are wiped off immediately by the question: What would Jesus have done in 
this situation? And this Jesus is certainly not the one who scolded his mother (John 2:4) 
or the one who expelled the merchants and money changers from the temple (Mark 
11:15), but a meek and mild construct whose fellowship means death but not liberation. 
Little Marie's story was used to convince other children (most of them girls probably) of 
the discipleship of Jesus and transformed them into little missionaries themselves. 

Ottilie Wildermuth is shown as a positive example for a religious story without 
transferring children into missionaries. The novel encourages young persons to seek their 
own ways even if their social backgrounds are miserable. In the end Peterli will become a 
doctor for medicine, Mareile will find a home where she is loved and cherished. So 
poverty must not be a drawback. All this is embedded into a deep faith in a just God. 

The 19 century models for girls and young women are portrayed in Eros and 


Sexuality in 19 th Century Germany and the Silly Teenagers ' Stories. My narration of the 
Damsel in Distress shows the limitation and dangers of this sort of education. The 
message of the Silly Teenagers ' Stories is not grounded in civil religion any longer as 
were the Spyri novels, the tract narratives, and Wildermuth's novel. Their topic is 
marriage and to a certain degree sexuality. It is the same 'revised' sexuality that turned 
Mary into the everlasting virgin and changed the act of making love into an act of 
'pollution'. So the fact that Jesus has brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3) had to be silenced 
shamefully (because those could have only been fruits of 'pollution' since Joseph was a 
human being). The Silly Teenagers ' Stories depict love as a chaste affair where all 
passion has been wiped off. The future husband seizes the father's role, only that with 
this 'father' the young women share their beds. The sometimes tinge of incest which can 
be found in some of these stories is transferred to the safe father-husband-figure. Again 
these stories have a crippling effect on adolescent girls and young women. They tell them 
that marriage is a goal that has to be achieved by all means and at all costs. The message 
is that young women are unable to live on and for themselves. And with regard to their 
bodies, their desires and needs have to be tamed and they are definitely not asked to seek 
their own pleasure, but solely that of their partners. 

Children's and adolescents' literature after 1968 will look into Momo and Konrad, 
das Kind aus der Konservenbiichse, both taken from the seventies. It will contain a 
deeper look into what has changed, what has remained, seen from a today's point of 
view. What is liberating in the children's books of the seventies? Konrad, das Kind aus 


der Konservenbiichse rebukes a crippling education which turns children into perfect 
little adults. The child Konrad who was trained to perfection is changed into a normal 
child. Kitty, the little girl who helps him, is a cunning and bright creature who belies her 
parents if she decides it is to the best of all of them. The singles Berti Bartolotti and Herr 
Egon change from figures at the brink of ridicule to true parents and probably a different 
personal relationship. The gray couple who wanted to have a perfect child has to be 
content with a dog in the end. So this story is truly liberating. 

Momo has elements that are freeing: a girl, who inspires creativity, truth, courage, 
a girl who acts. But its message is too closely linked with the old pictures of a pure and 
innocent female. Momo is of uncertain age as well as of uncertain sex. All her actions are 
righteous, she never says a wrong word, but she does not give the impression that she is 
human. In a way she again is the virgin put on her old pedestal. 

Dorothee Solle's chapter on Childhood Mysticism is to conclude these notes and 
at the same time it is meant as a warning, not to forget about our own dreams, our inner 
growth, our souls in order to function in a world for which dreams and inner growth have 
become increasingly troublesome and annoying as they are not predictable, as they are 
not linked with this world's topic number one of how to make money, the most money. 
On the other hand only our inner growing makes sure that we act as human beings in the 


true meaning of the adjective "human," that is to respect each other, share with each 
other, defend each other's rights and liberty, in short, to give others voice. 

Storytelling as an act of enabling individual liberty only is not enough. It has to be 
followed by the action of giving voice to the other. Storytelling is linked with the act of 
listening to ourselves and the voices of others. It has to do with accepting our own 
neediness. It has to do with giving up roles we played, masks we wore throughout the 
whole life until we took them for our own faces. It has to do with finding ourselves in 
what we do through the grace of God. It has to do with liberation for you and me. 




fall, n: 2c: lapse or departure from innocence or goodness: spiritual ruin <~ from virtue> - used 
with the and often cap. In reference to the fall of man [sic!] reported in Gen. 3(2) 

exegesis, n [NL, fr. Gk exegesis, fr. exegeisthai to explain, interpret, fr. Ex out of, out + hegeisthai 
to lead...]: EXPOSITION, EXPLANATION; esp: critical interpretation of a text or portion of 

My cycle of storytelling starts with a narration that was probably written down 
more than three thousand years ago, but was told in tents and clay brick huts far earlier. It 
is the story of the fall. To me it reveals the origin of an unequal partnership, the origin of 
patriarchy. It marks the beginning of women's so-called inferiority to men which made 
the excuse of abusing women all over the world, whether the abusers be Christians or not. 
As Kwok Pui-Lan showed in her paper presented at the AAR in Toronto on "Feminism, 
Postcolonialism, and Early Christianity": "...the issues of women's position in early 
Christianity. . .are not simply feminist concerns, but have significant implications for a 
postcolonial reading of the New Testament." They have to be seen in "relation of 
anthropology to colonialism and its representation of the Other." 1 Anthropological and 
colonial prejudices have been transported all over the world. This certainly will hold true 
not only for the Second Testament, but for the First as well. 

This etiology narrative tries to explain and justify the unjust treatment of women. 
I contrast it with another model, which explains the "necessity" of the fall, as Eve finds 

Kwok Pui-Lan, "Feminism, Postcolonialism, and Early Christianity" Unpublished paper presented 
at the AAR Toronto, NT Studies and Postcolonial Studies Consultation, 24 November 2002. 


her counter in Mary, Queen of Heaven, and a better model for human relationships, based 
on a Grimm's fairy tale. 

Sermon on Genesis 3 

I can fairly claim for myself that I am more familiar with sin - and death as its 
result - than resurrection and love. So it is no coincidence that I have two memos like 
beacons hanging over my desk. One of them is a quotation by bell hooks, saying 

"How can we speak of change, of hope, and love when we court death?" 
The other one is by Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza: 

"The goal of Wisdom teaching is to enable us to cope with life." 

Below these citations is the pencil drawing of a guardian angel, given to me by 

my four-year-old friend Franziska. This angel gracefully turns his head full of flaming 

yellow hair to the left, a movement which is very similar to that of the Christ of Andrej 

Rubljev's icon of Trinity. Franziska is a child full of curiosity, temperament, and endless 

"Why"-questions. She loves to explore on her own, and "I'll do it myself was her key 

sentence last year. Her parents support her craving for independence, but protect her from 

real danger. To explore, to be curious, seems to be part of human nature. Does it really? 

Let us see, what the biblical Story of Gen. 3, named as the narrative of the Fall, tells us 

about it: 

Genesis 3 

1 . Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD 
God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat from any tree in 
the garden'?" 2. The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in 
the garden; 3. but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle 


of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'" 4. But the serpent said to the 
woman, "You will not die; 5. for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be 
opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."6. So when the woman saw 
that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was 
to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to 
her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7. Then the eyes of both were opened, and 
they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths 
for themselves. 

8. They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the 
evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD 
God among the trees of the garden. 9. But the LORD God called to the man and said to 
him, "Where are you?" 10. He said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was 
afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." 1 1. He said, "Who told you that you were 
naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12. The 
man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, 
and I ate." 13. Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have 
done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate." 14 The LORD God said to 
the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among 
all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of 
your life. 15. 1 will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring 
and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel." 16. To the woman he 
said, "I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth 
children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." 17. And 
to the man he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten 
of the tree about which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground 
because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it 
shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19. By the sweat of your 
face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you 
are dust, and to dust you shall return." 

20. The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the 
LORD God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them. 

This chapter proves that apparently we cannot take it for granted that human 

curiosity and the wish to know will be accepted, not to speak of rewarded. God, depicted 

in anthropomorphous language as a father, is angry about Eve's curiosity. The text tells 

us that apparently he gave strict orders, regulating the life of Adam and Eve: "You shall 

All bible citations are from Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha. (New 
York: Oxford University Press, 1989). 


not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or 
you shall die," (Gen.3:3) so Eve reports to the Serpent. 

Gen. 2:9 has already informed us that God had put two trees in the center of the 
garden: "the tree of life ... and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." 

All the fairy tales tell us that a forbidden room is the most interesting of all, even 
if there be others to be explored as well. Grimm's tale of the Virgin Mary's Child speaks 
about the forbidden room with "the Holy Trinity sitting in fire and splendor." Or the 
story of Bluebeard, where the prohibited chamber reveals all the mutilated women, 
Bluebeard had put to death. 4 But still, both women in the tales are determined to unlock 
the forbidden doors. 

In Gen. 3 it is a tree which is so much a taboo that Eve thinks she may not even 
touch it. The explanation given is that "you shall die." But what does this threat mean to 
someone who never experienced death? 

Verse 22 reveals the true background and importance of one of the trees: 

"Then the Lord God said, "See, the man has become like one of us ...and now, he 
might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat 
and live forever." 

So this prohibited tree, the center of the garden, is the tree of life, giver of eternal life. 

Did God then speak the untruth, when he told Eve and Adam "You shall die?" 

Eve, the curious, active person, receives her information about the tree by the 

Serpent, which "was more crafty than the other wild animal that the Lord God had made" 


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(Gen. 3:1). Now, "crafty" is an ambiguous word. One of its meanings can be "someone 
who is skillful, clever," its second meaning is "cunning, sly, tricky." 

Both, the Serpent and Eve, are God's creation. The difference between them is 
that "God created human kind in his image" (Gen. 1 :27). Does not God want his 
creatures to be clever and active? What kind of relationship is depicted in Genesis 3? 

We learn that God walks "in the garden at the time of the evening breeze" (Gen. 
3:8) like a landowner of that time. Although he expels Eve and Adam from the garden of 
Eden, God "made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them" 
(Gen. 3:20). By doing so he acts like a good house father. But this is only one side of the 
coin. The good father of this narrative looks after his children. These children are naked 
and do not know the difference between good and evil. They live in a secluded garden in 
a sort of symbiotic way as babies live together with their mothers during the first months 
of their lives. Eve's transgression enabled them to be separate beings, to be able to decide 
for themselves about good and evil, to leave the stage of childhood. In this story of 
development a woman plays the active role: "she took the fruit and ate"(Gen. 3:6). 
Although Adam is present during the whole dialogue with the Serpent ("her husband, 
who was with her," Gen. 3:6), he did not show any activity. It is Eve, who "gave some 
[of the fruit] to her husband and he ate"(Gen. 3:6). Eve chooses knowledge, chooses to 
know about "good and evil" (Gen.3:5). 

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, trans, by Jack Zipes (New York: Bantam, 
1988), vol.1, 8. 
4 Ibid., vol. 2, 325. 





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But Eve's activity causes an enormous punishment. From now on the roles are 
exchanged: "Your husband ... shall rule over you" (Gen. 3:16). Her only activity in 
future will be to give birth. But even that is spoilt: "I will greatly increase your pangs in 
childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children" (Gen. 3:16). Eve is now a reduced 
person: passive, waiting for the man who "shall rule over" her. The former state of 
equality and partnership has gone forever. From now on woman is man's property, 
cursed because of her curiosity, enlarged, and at the same time reduced, to an eternal 
seductress, the vessel of all evil, a person, who freely may be punished, because God 
himself had punished her. 

Adam is cursed, too. But his curse does not touch the relationship with the woman 
at his side. The ground he will have to work on is cursed because of him, and his toiling 
on it will be difficult. But in his relationship to Eve, he takes over the authority. For both 
of them death will be the end: "you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Gen. 3:19). 
God had spoken the truth about the tree of life, although an ambiguous truth. So this text 
is a true text of terror. It is a text about broken relationships. 

God ended the relationship with "his children," because they were no longer the 
children he wanted them to be and because they might become like him. Why then did 
God create them in his image? Eve's understandable curiosity was the end for a 
partnership of equals, because God's curse enabled patriarchy, hierarchy, and contempt 
for women. From now on there is no genuine model for a true partnership for the 
following generations. Adam becomes whitewashed "soon." ITim. 2:14 makes it quite 
clear: "Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a 


transgressor." This text does not grant her a name even. The results are known: "Let a 
woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or have 
authority over a man; she is to keep silent" (ITim. 2:1 If.). Not only had Eve been made 
passive, no, she had to lose her voice altogether: "she is to keep silent." This has been the 
proto-model for all relationships, where power is exerted, may they be straight, gay, or 
lesbian. Mistrust, rivalry, competition are its result, and some of them end up in bitter 
hatred. On the altar of this "authority" women have been burnt at stakes, have been raped, 
have been battered. 

A jealous God, who expels his beautiful creation because of her curiosity and 
craving for knowledge, the jealous God, whose curse for Eve finished any relationship 
between equals - is this the end? Do we have to perpetuate and repeat this curse from 
generation to generation as psychology teaches us? 

After I had written the first part of this sermon, I wandered around for weeks. I 
did not intend to harmonize what could not be harmonized. But I knew that this jealous 
God had nothing to do with me or I with him. My confirmation text spoke of a different 
God: "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them" 
(1 John 4:16). 

When I was on the lookout for possible models of life, I found two models. On 

one of them I came across in an Evensong in the British Cambridge. As an apple addict 

my heart was delighted about this discovery: 

Adam lay ybounden 
Bounden in a bond, 
Four thousand winter 
Thought he not too long. 


And all was for an apple 
An apple that he took, 
As clerkes finden 
Written in their book. 

Ne had the apple taken been 
The apple taken been, 
Ne had never our Lady 
A been heavene queen. 

Blessed be the time 
The apple taken was, 
Therefore we moun singen 

What astonished me, was the experience that there was not a single word about 

the seductress Eve which in fact Gen. 3 does not speak about, either, if we let alone that 

Adam later justifies his transgression by telling God that "the woman . . .gave me fruit 

from the tree" (Gen. 3:12). But later times clearly turned her into the eternal temptress, as 

we saw by the Timothy letter. The text from the 1 5 century plainly speaks about Adam 

having taken the apple. It mentions punishment, as well: "Adam lay ybounden," but this 

was for a forseeable time, not for ever. And, above all, Adam could agree to this 

punishment: "Four thousand winter/ Thought he not too long." But then the apple, the 

symbol for sin and death, gets transformed. This apple, this malum, evil, enabled our 

Lady, Mary, to become the Queen of Heavens. That view includes Christ's birth, death, 

and resurrection, although it does not mention them with a single sentence. It is about the 

unspeakable, about God's unfathomable love for his humankind. So words are not deep 

enough to express what has to be said, and therefore silence is far more impressive. The 

Anonymous, 1 5 th century. 


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text ends with the blessing of what once had been a curse, therefore we are all invited to 

join in the Deo gratias. This is my "celestial" model, so to speak. 

But I was still looking for a mundane model, a model that enables equal 

partnership. I found it in my own roots, in one of my beloved Grimm's fairy tales which 

have been collected from where I come, the Weserbergland. I found it in a tale with the 

title "The White Snake." 6 It is the old story of the proud princess who does not want to 

marry the man beneath her rank. So he has to undergo trials, and although he passes them 

all, the princess still is not satisfied. She sends him to fetch an apple from the Tree of 

Life. I will read the end of the fairy tale to you: 

Now the young man was full of joy and started on his way home. He brought the 
golden apple to the beautiful princess, who no longer had any excuses to make. 
They divided the apple of life and ate it together, and her heart filled with love for 
him. In time they reached a ripe old age in peace and happiness. 

This text gives us all ingredients for a successful relationship, may it be lesbian, straight, 

or gay: to divide and eat together, meaning to share each other and whatever gifts we 

have. The result will be love and the process of maturity, and, if God permits, peace and 

happiness. The gifts of God for the people of God. This will be bliss, 'eden, indeed. 


What is behind this deeply troubling narration about the broken relationship of a 
woman and a man and their relationship to God? What have "clerkes . . . [w]ritten in their 
book[s]" about it? How do theologians interpret this text? 

The similarity of snake and serpent in this title struck me. 
Ibid., vol. 1,75 






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Exegetical Comments 

In this exegetical reflection I am going to look at commentaries with a particular 
feminist approach. I myself shall use the "hermeneutics of critical evaluation" (Elisabeth 
Schiissler Fiorenza). 

In contrast to most standard commentaries, the feminist commentaries on Genesis 
2-3 underline the change of relationships divine and human (Carol Meyers). 

In Gen. 1 :26-29 both man and woman are created at the same time, and both are 
created in God's image. The result is equality between the two. Phyllis Trible refers to 
the fact: "clearly, 'male and female' correspond structurally to 'the image of God,' and 
this formal parallelism indicates a semantic correspondence." So there is not only 
equality between the sexes but a profound relatedness to their divine opposite. Therefore 
Phyllis Trible concludes that "the parallelism between... 'male and female' shows further 
that sexual differentiation does not mean hierarchy but rather equality. . .Neither has 
power over the other." 9 

Text J declares Adam to be taken from the earth (adama), whereas Eve is made 
from the human being Adam. Hildegard von Bingen interprets this as an act of 

Phyllis Trible, God and The Rhetoric of Sexuality (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), 17. 
Ibid., 18. 


superiority: being "flesh from flesh" already, Eve need not be transformed as was Adam 
(caro enim de carne, in aliud non mutanda permansit). 1 

Caryl Johnston thinks of Adam's creation in J as "the unfolding of his skeleton. 
Our word 'articulation', reflects this, because it refers not only to the distinct vocal 
sounds of speech but also to the formation and distinction of the bone and skeletal 
system." 1 ' And she goes on interpreting the creation of woman as a possibility for Adam 
"to translate experience and fact into symbol. But how can he have access to his own 
within-ness? The female lives there. The female must emerge into the flesh ..., leaving 
that 'within-ness' open for human cognitive activity." 

Carol Meyers stresses the fact, that in Genesis 2:24 the "conjugal bond is given 
priority. Only in marriage are male and female complementary parts of the whole, for the 
parent-child relationship is an intrinsically hierarchical one in a way that the wife- 
husband one is not." What has altered their relationship is human guilt. "Neither God 
nor the woman has tempted the man, and yet he implicates them both in his guilt. He 
indicates that Eros, which he himself once celebrated ... is a mistake." 14 

De operatione Dei 3.7 [PL 197: 963], quotation from Elisabeth Gossmann, "History of Biblical 
Interpretation by European Women," in Searching the Scriptures, vol. 1, ed. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza 
(New York: Crossroad Herder, 1 997), 29. 

Caryl Johnston, Consecrated Venom: The Serpent and the Tree of Knowledge (Edinburgh: Floris, 
2000), 59. 
12 Ibid., 60. 

Carol Meyers, Discovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context (New York/Oxford: Oxford 
University Press, 1988), 86. 
14 Trible, 1 19. 


In Genesis 2 we learn that God brings the newly created animals "to the man to 
see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was 
its name."(Gen. 2:19) Von Rad refers to this naming as "both an act of copying and an 
act of appropriative ordering, by which man intellectually objectifies the creatures for 
himself." 15 So the act of naming can be seen as an act of taking into possession. When for 
example Jacob wrestles with the divine apparition, Jacob asked for his name: "Please tell 
me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" (Gen. 32:29) and does 
not give his name. To have the name is to take into possession, as we know from fairy 
tales, where Rumpelstiltskin's power is broken by the fact that his name is publicly 
known. So Adam's naming "his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living" 
(Gen. 3:20) is to be seen in a similar light. Phyllis Trible interprets it so, when she says 
"this language... chillingly echoes the vocabulary of dominion over the animals... Now, 
...the man reduces the woman to the status of an animal by calling her a name. The act 
itself faults the man for corrupting one flesh of equality, for asserting power over the 
woman, and for violating the companion corresponding to him." 16 

Adam gives his wife a name that reduces her to one function solely, the "mother 
of all living." Phyllis Trible quite clearly underlines this, saying: "What alone might be a 
title of honor, 'mother of all living,' is in context intertwined with a position of inferiority 
and subordination." 17 

Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary (London: SCM Press, 1961), 81. 

16 Trible, 133. 

17 Trible, 134. 


Rosemary Radford Ruether compares the narrative of Genesis 3 with the Greek 
author Hesiod's Golden Age Myth. There Zeus sends Pandora with a box of troubles to 
humankind. Pandora opens the box and is now made responsible for all evil in the world: 

"Both of these stories are shaped by males to blame women, especially as wives, 
for all the troubles of hard labor and physical illness. Both of them imagine the idyllic 
time as one prior to hunting, agriculture, and technology, a gatherer paradise when 

1 o 

humans could simply stretch forth their hand to pluck the fruits of an abundant earth." 

One of the commentators which does not give the impression of a sinning Eve 
who thus destroyed an everlasting life in paradise is Susan Niditch in the Women 's Bible 
Commentary. It sees "Woman [as ] the one who will house life within her, helps to 
generate this new, active, challenging life beyond Eden." 19 

This commentary draws a positive image of the serpent, as well: "The snake, like 
the Greek giant Prometheus, who was said to have given fire to humankind, is a 
trickster. . . The trickster has less power than the great gods but enough mischief and 
nerve to shake up the cosmos and alter it forever. . . . She [Eve] is no easy prey for a 
seducing demon, but a conscious actor choosing knowledge. Together with the snake, she 
is a bringer of culture." 20 

Rosemary Radford Ruether, Gaia & God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing (San 
Francisco: Harper, 1992), 144. 

Susan Niditch, "Genesis," in Women 's Bible Commentary (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster 
John Knox, 1992), 17. 


In the Dictionary of Feminist Theologies Lee Palmer Wandel explains the craving 
for asceticism in the Middle Ages: "Eve was seduced by her desire to know; the most 
immediate consequence of the first couples' disobedience was their unease with 
nakedness. In the Middle Ages, Christ's celibacy and Mary's virginity were more than a 
sign of their holiness; their sexual asceticism was essential to the story of human 

As we know, this aspect plays an important role even today, particularly for girls, 
whose virginity is their most highly valued "possession." In Latin America this tradition 
is called "marianismo, which is based on the worship of the Virgin Mary. This tradition 
holds that women are morally and spiritually superior to men and thus creates exacting 
standards of behavior for girls and women to emulate. Associated with marianismo are 
the values of decente, referring to virtuous and proper behavior, and verguenza, referring 
to modesty or embarrassment about the female body and the notion that girls should not 
know about sexuality." 

So women even today have to pay a high price in order to cope with their 
societies' ideals. There is still the distinction between the dominating male and a sexually 
subdued female, although marianismo gives the woman a sort of "compensation" by 
telling her that she is "morally superior." But this will not help her in a world where male 

20 Ibid., 17. 

Lee Palmer Wandel, "Fall," in Letty M. Russel & J. Shannon Clarkson, ed., Dictionary of 
Feminist Theologies (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 97. 


dominance is a fact and is to be seen everywhere. When Rosemary Radford Ruether 
writes about the German feminist theologian Dorothee Solle, she emphasizes that 
"because women as a gender group have been marginalized . . .and have been socialized 
to identify more with love and relationality, Solle hopes that women will be readier to 
break with lies and power systems and align themselves with the struggle for justice and 
love. The struggle is finally one of women and men for life on earth, not a struggle of 
women against men. The good news of the gospel, rescued from patriarchal distortion, is 
that God in Christ is with us and in us in this struggle." 

To my belief this can be the only model if we hope to have any future on this 
earth, whatsoever. The "fall," which in its essence was an act against authority, comprises 
both, man and woman. So Dorothee Solle. summarized by Rosemary Radford Ruether, 
can stress: "The primal sin of Adam (more, specifically, of Eve) was disobedience to 
authority, to be atoned for by redoubled submission. Christians are taught not to question 
authority to discern whether it is of God." 24 If we do not find ways of questioning every 
sort of authority and finding out whether they are life establishing or life destroying, we 
cannot continue living. 

Jill McLean Taylor, Carol Gilligan, Amy S. Sullivan, Between Voice and Silence: Women and 
Girls, Race and Relationship (Cambridge, MA/ London, England: Harvard University Press, 1997), 61. 

Rosemary Radford Ruether, Women and Redemption: A Theological History (Minneapolis: 
Fortress, 1998), 189 f. 

Dorothee Solle. Creative Disobedience (Cleveland: Pilgrim, 1995), 7 - 22, cited after Rosemary 
Radford Ruether, Women And Redemption. A Theological History (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 


This questioning of authority, may it be that of a "good God," the actions 
of a "father in heaven" as well as that of a father on earth, will be my aim in the 
examination of Johanna Spyri's novels Gritlis Kinder and Heidi. 




tract, n [ME trade, irreg. Fr. L tractatus action of handling, discussion, treatise...]: 

2a: pamphlet, leaflet, or folder issued (as by a political or religious group) for propaganda; esp: 

one containing a religious exhortation, a doctrinal discussion, or a proselytizing appeal 

missionary, n, lb: one who undertakes a special religious or humanitarian mission among those 
of his own faith or country, c: one who attempts to convert others to a specific way of life, set of 
ideas, or course of action 

Johanna Spyri: Gritli's Kinder and Heidi 

From the broken partnership of the first couple to the children and adolescents of 
the 19 th century is a great leap, covering millenia. Is the God of the fall seen as the same 
in Spyri' s novels? In order to find out about this I intend to analyze the Swiss Johanna 
Spyri 's novel Gritli 's Kinder (Gritli 's Children) from the point of view of "heaven" and 
the "good God" by using a literary critical method and comparing them to biblical texts. 
Gritli 's Kinder will be examined from the point of view of "heaven" and the "good God" 
and will be explored in the context of the Book of Revelation and Job because of the 
fruitful biblical analogies. I will argue that contents and language in Gritli 's Kinder are 
full of cliches and stereotypes and that the ideals of "God" and "heaven" are deeply 
untrustworthy. The solving of problems for the children mentioned consists of escapism, 
not confrontation. Spyri thinks it better for ten year olds to be in heaven than to be 
supported on earth. 

Whereas Spyri' s story, Gritli 's Kinder, which is announced by herself as a story 
"For Children and for Those who Love Children" in reality is a "text of terror," this is 
different, with regard to Heidi which has other options. My aim is to find out about the 


difference. So in a second analysis I try to apply the same method I will use in Gritli 's 
Kinder on Johanna Spyri's Heidi. Again I will employ the topic of "God," but contrary to 
Gritli 's Kinder I will use the topic "nature" as another category and consider the topics 
"education" and "psychology" as well. "God" and "nature" are linked theologically 
through the act of creation, and "education" in the fear of God was so important for the 
1 9 century in German speaking countries that Heinrich Hoffmann' s ( 1 809- 1 894) 
Struwwelpeter (Slovenly Peter) became the book to put pressure upon children and make 
them afraid of the consequences of their action. 1 

In a third part I want to find out why, in particular, Heidi became and still is such 
an enormous success. There are Heidi films, beginning with Shirley Temple as Heidi, and 
continuing to this day in the latest American Heidi film in 1 995 and a European 
production for the 100 th anniversary day of Spyri's death in 2001. There are Heidi 
cartoon films which every child in Europe of a certain age has watched. So I want to find 
out about the reason for this enormous success, and suggest some elements that have 
contributed to its status as a children's classic. 

A fourth part will deal with the question of what station of life Spyri herself was 
in and how much it influenced her writing. What might have caused the change of 
perspective from Gritli 's Kinder to Heidi? 

A fifth part will employ the question of "agency" or children and adolescents seen 
as "missionaries," and connect it with a biblical "model," the little handmaiden, a captive 

In his opening lecture for the exhibition Struwwelpeter international in Heidelberg's University 
Museum (16.05.-04.07.02) the great expert for children's literature in Germany, Prof. Dr. Klaus Doderer 
emphasized the fact that Struwwelpeter was in itself a political-satirical piece of work, not designed to 
educate children in particular. 


from Israel, who served Naaman's, (the commander's of the Aramean army) wife (2 
Kings 5:1-5). This exiled girl helped Naaman to be healed from leprosy as Heidi will be 
the means for Klara to be healed in Heidi's "exile" in Frankfurt. I will compare and 
contrast these two texts in order to find out about their similarities. 

I will then look into one of the origins of religious tract narratives for children and 
adolescents and introduce a) the British Hesba Stretton; b) look into Spyri's first novel A 
Sheet on Vrony's Grave; c) analyze children's and adolescents' religious literature in 
Germany (Ottilie Wildermuth; I shall contrast her narrative Der Peterli von Emmental to 
Heidi); d) discuss my own grandmother Georgine Liickhoff as a product of a similar 
education. Then I shall analyze the German tract novel Die kleine Jiingerin and show the 
dangerous message emanating from this type of religious literature. 

GritlVs Kinder 

My edition of this book, translated into English, is beautifully produced, edited by 
Cupples and Hurd in the 19 th century. It bears the former owner's name and the date 
"Christmas 1887" and tells the reader that this is "A Story for Children and Those who 
Love Children." The book starts with the description of an obvious idyllic scene: 

The golden sunshine of a glorious June morning flooded the roses of the beautiful 
garden that surrounded a handsome stone villa on the banks of the Rhine. A 
thousand sweet perfumes borne upon the gentle breeze mounted like incense to 
the open windows, and sought entrance there. From a great basin in the middle of 
the garden, a slender shaft of water rose straight up into the blue sky, and then fell 
splashing back, sprinkling the flowers and the grass with sparkling moisture. Gay 
butterflies fluttered hither and thither, sipping sweets from the honey-laden 
flowers. Under the trees stood marble statues gleaming white through the 
shadows; and seats in sheltered nooks invited the loiterer to rest and listen to the 


concert of the myriad birds that made their happy homes in this paradise of 
summer beauty. 

Only one half sentence brings in a different tone: "marble statues gleaming white through 

shadows" (p. 6, italics mine), which does not seem to fit into the bucolic, paradisical 

scene but to refer to a realm where there is no life. In sharp contrast to the seemingly 

happy garden scene the text goes on: "At the closed window ... sat a little maiden, 

pressing her pale face against the wide, clear glass, as she peered out with longing eyes 

over the roses. . ." (p. 6, italics mine). 

In the course of the chapter the reader is told that this is the ten year old Nora who 
is sick and will die, as did her father, Mr. Stanhope, and her brother, Philo: "Little 
Philo closed his eyes forever, and was laid to rest under the old linden-tree in the garden, 
where the roses bloomed all summer long" (p. 18, italics mine). Here again we find the 
roses (a botanical miracle, since everyone who has grown roses him- or herself knows 
that they do not grow well under richly leafed trees like linden) little Nora observed so 

How well linked with death this child is we can discern in a conversation Nora 

has with Clarissa, her mother's companion, whom Nora asks to "repeat the old song of 


A stream of water, crystal bright, 
Flows down through meadows green, 
Where lilies, shining in the light, 
Like twinkling starlets gleam. 

And roses blow, and roses glow, 

Johanna Spyri, Gritli's Children (Boston: Cupples and Hurd, 1887), 5f [italics mine]. 


While birds in every tree 

Are singing loud, are singing low, 

'In Paradise are we.' 

Here, gently blows the soft, sweet wind; 
Bright flowers grow all around; 
Men wake, as from a dream, to find 
They tread on holy ground. 

In blissful happiness they rove, 
At peace with each and all; 
United now in bonds of love, 
Freed from the grave's dark pall. 

All want and weariness are o'er, 
All sorrow and ail pain; 
Their rapture gathers more and more; 
The sick are well again." 

Clarissa is described as "a person of rare character, and a tower of strength in this 
household where . . . her word was followed as law and obeyed with affection" (p. 9), 
and whose eyes are described as "Mother's eyes" (p. 10). There is a sharp distinction 
between "mamma", i.e. Mrs. Stanhope who "could not endure the thought of losing little 
Nora, even though her child were called to heaven" (p. 15), and "Mother" Clarissa who 
tells the ten year old one: "Yes: go willingly [to heaven], go gladly, dear child. . .Then 
you can wander joyfully among the bright flowers, and sing" (p. 15) and tells her 
miserable mother: "If our darling is to live only to suffer through long years of pain, can 
you wish for life to her? Why should we wish to keep her here . . . rather than let her go to 
that heavenly home, where there is no more sorrow or pain?" (p. 16). 

By turning Clarissa into a "Mother" and making Mrs. Stanhope "mamma," a 
smaller form of the greater "mother," Johanna Spyri makes it quite clear which of the two 


women is the greater personality in her eyes and develops an image of motherhood in a 
particular sense. 'Mother's' word must be followed as a "law and obeyed with affection" 
(p. 9). This sentence could have been taken from Exodus 20, where it says: "I the Lord 
your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents... but showing 
steadfast love to . . .those who love me and keep my commandments" (v. 5). The words 
law and commandments equal each other as do obey and keep; affection and love. 

In this children's book God is called "good" (p. 118; 164), "our Father in heaven 
[who] never forgets his children" (p. 156). He "does many things which we cannot 
understand" (p. 164), but is to be believed, because "as we are told by One whom we can 
trust that we shall live again after our body dies, we must believe it" (p. 164). Mrs. 
Stanhope asks: "Why does God take from me my only child [ meaning Nora, since Philo 
died before]?" (p. 160), but this God restores the former status by giving her the half 
orphans Elsli and Fani, the children of the late Gritli Heiri, as a substitute for her own 
ones: "God had led the two children .. by such unlooked-for ways into a happy and 
hopeful life" (p. 193). 'Mother' Clarissa "took great pains that the two children 
committed to her care [i.e. Elsli and Fani] should not forget the good Father in heaven 
who had provided such a home for them. She led them often to the spot where Philo and 
Nora lay buried, and reminded them... [to ] have full trust in God, who holds all life in his 
hand, and who makes both joy and sorrow work together for good to those who love 
him." (p. 195 f.) This echoes an exact biblical quotation, where we are told "We know 

3 Ibid., 14. 


that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according 
to his purpose. "(Romans 8:28) 

The only criticism I can find in this story is that of a member of the poor working 
class. Marget, second wife to the "day-laborer" (p. 21) Heiri and substitute for his 
delicate first wife Gritli, risks some critique by saying: "I can't help thinking sometimes 
that the Lord God loves some of his children better than other ones" (p. 102). But she is 
mildly rebuked by the doctor's wife, speaking "in her kindest tones: There are many 
sufferings besides poverty, and some which are much harder to bear. Our Father in 
heaven knows why he sends them to us" (p. 102). 

This novel never questions suffering, never rebels against it, thus supporting the 
idea which is found in an old German hymnbook: "All that God does, is well done." 
Johanna Spyri never raises the question of theodicy, although Mrs. Stanhope dares to ask: 
"Why must I suffer more than any one else in the world?" (p. 161). But this does not 
equal Job's lament who "cursed the day of his birth" (3:1) and tells his friends: "I will not 
restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the 
bitterness of my soul" (7:1 1). Job has made God responsible for his crushed life and 
proudly says: "Know then that God has put me in the wrong, and closed his net around 
me" (19:6). Spyri' s God does not even permit lamentations. He is the strict "father," who 
knows best what is good for his "children." Therefore the "children" never dare to 
question Him. Therefore their sorrows are somehow cursory and shallow. They lack 
"gall," as Shakespeare's Hamlet puts it. 


Its continuation can be found in the portrait of that "heaven" this "good God" 
lives in: All its items are in Clarissa's song of Paradise. They strangely resemble the 
entering description of the bucolic scene Nora had watched so longingly. Here again, 
there is the stream. It was the river Rhine in the opening scene, here it is a stream crystal 
bright, which seems to be a quotation from the Book of Revelation, where the angel 
shows "the river the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God (22:1, 
italics mine). 

Again Clarissa's Paradise song refers to the roses and birds of the opening 
scene. Even the gentle breeze is there as gently blows of the soft, sweet wind in the song. 
According to this poem heaven is the absence of "want," "weariness," "sorrow and pain" 
and ends in the significant line: "The sick are well again." This "heaven" does not speak 
of a transformation into those beings God created in "his image" (Gen. 1:27). The heaven 
Spyri designs consists of words only, as does the ostensibly bucolic opening scenery of 
her children's book. Let us give it one closer look. The words describe cliches, not a 
genuine world: golden sunshine, glorious June morning, sweet perfumes, gay butterflies, 
myriad birds which made their happy homes show no genuine emotions, not a real picture 
of a beautiful landscape or nature. They are artificial. The portrait of the "Mother," that is 
Clarissa, corresponds to this cliche. This "mother" is not a human person but presents an 
abstraction, rather. There is no emotion, no genuine suffering, misery, happiness, or joy. 
It is as artificial as the scenery in which the story plays. 

Severus Gastorius. 1674. Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan. Evangelisches Kirchengesangbuch 
(Hannover: Schliitersche Buchdruckerei, n.d.) no. 299. 


So because paradise and its equivalent in the mundane world are cliches, because 
the description of "motherhood" and "God" are rigid, there is no development of depth 
and character within the book. Persons are static, there is no genuine transformation. 
Therefore heaven can be seen as the fittest answer in the "solving" of problems, related to 
this world: the problems of suffering or poverty. Both of these subjects are never tackled 

Gritli 's Kinder is a story of escapism and the author who tells her readers that this 
is "a story for children and those who love children" betrays the children she writes 
about. Nora is a mere excuse for Spyri's preaching morality to her readers. Elsli's 
sufferings from poverty and illness deliver the background for describing the "good God" 
under whose reign "quickly and unexpectedly sorrow may be changed into joy," but at 
the same time "just so quickly joy may be changed to sorrow" (p. 196). The question, 
how any child can develop a love for such an ambiguous, unpredictable God who is not 
trustworthy, cannot be answered. Spyri designs a God who strangely resembles the 
patriarchs of her time, fathers, who were not nurturing, protective, or accountable to their 
children but nevertheless had to be obeyed, venerated, and trusted. What is being 
affirmed is a negative theology. But Spyri thinks of it as positive. It is time to give these 
children a voice, because "women may hold a key to replacing violence with speaking, 
. . . and healing wounds which otherwise fester from generation to generation — in short, 
to establishing democracy and civilization." 6 



Whereas Gritli 's Children was written in 1 878 and appeared in the volume 
Heimathlos (Homeless), Heidi 's Lehr- und Wanderjahre (Heidi's Years of 
Apprenticeship and Travel) was issued in 1880. Instead of the author's name it bears the 
reference "Von der Verfasserin von Ein Blatt von Vrony 's Grab" (by the Author of A 
Sheet on Vrony 's Grave). 

The title Heidi 's Lehr- und Wanderjahre is a title that Spyri borrowed from the 
German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His world classic Wilhelm Meister was 
issued in two parts, part one in 1 795/96 as Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm 
Meister' s Years of Apprenticeship), part two in 1821 as Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre 
(Wilhelm Meister' s Years of Travel). They describe the psychological and physical 
development of a young man and are summarized under the topic "novels of 
development" or "Bildungsroman." Apart from the young man's development they 
describe his careful education. To read Wilhelm Meister was a must for every educated 
German-speaking person before World War II, and the novels still have to be read by 
students of German literature. As Spyri venerated Goethe it is no coincidence that she 
chose this title. But here ends the similarity. Spyri is not interested in Heidi's education 
for its own sake. Heidi will never learn more than literacy and a bit of sewing, and any 

Carol Gilligan, "Remembering Iphigenia: Voice, Resonance, and a Talking Cure," in Edward 
R.Shapiro, ed., The Inner World in the Outer World: A Psychodynamic Perspective (New Haven: Yale 
University Press, 1997), 12. 


forms of "development" will certainly end in the second part of the book Heidi Applies 
What She Has Learned. 

Now, who is Heidi? In the Geschichte der deutschen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur 
Gisela Wilkending describes her as a girl who is "not sound, coming from an intact 
landscape of nature, but [a child] who is hurt from the very beginning and which needs a 
perpetual climate of healing. . . She is homeless in the third generation. . . Her mother is 
longing for death." 7 Is she "Mignon's Redeemed Sister... who is allowed to return and 
must not die as her unhappy sister [i.e. Mignon] does, who cannot be helped, when she 
leaves her childhood behind," as Bettina Hurrelmann sees it? Or is she "the little 
unsophisticated mountain maiden [who] comes like a breath of upper air. Her experiences 
are charmingly portrayed, and one entirely forgets that one is not reading a transcript 
from real life, so vivid is the characterization, so perfect the realism, so consistent the 
narration," 9 a description that Nathan Haskell Dole provides in the introduction to Heidi 
in 1899? Or is Heidi "a conservative product of the nineteenth century which has kept 
very much alive in the twentieth... It concerns the experiences of a little girl, who is made 
into some kind of an extraordinary angel, a nature child with holy innocence, incapable of 
doing evil, gentle, loving, and kind," as Jack Zipes depicts her in his essay "The 

Gisela Wilkending in Reiner Wild, ed. Geschichte der deutschen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur 
(Stuttgart: J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1990), 245 [translation mine]. 

Bettina Hurrelmann, ed., Klassiker der Kinder- und Jugendliteratur (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer 
Taschenbuchverlag GmbH., 1997), 210 [translation mine]. 

Johanna Spyri, Heidi: A Little Swiss Girl 's City and Mountain Life (Boston, New York, Chicago, 
London: Ginn & Company, 1899), vi. 


International Scene in Children's Literature" with the subtitle Down with Heidi, Down 

with Struwwelpeter, Three Cheers for the Revolution. 

Heidi indeed belongs to a broken family. Both her parents die, when the child is 

one year old. Her aunt Dete reports to her acquaintance Barbel: 

Tobias [Heidi's father] married my sister Adelheid, for they had always been fond 
of each other and after their marriage they lived happily together. But it did n't 
[sic] last long. Two years after, while Tobias was working on a new house, a 
beam fell on him and killed him. Adelheid' s fright and grief when her husband 
was brought home so disfigured threw her into a violent fever, from which she did 
not recover. She never was very strong, and was often in such a condition that it 
was almost impossible to tell whether she was asleep or awake. Only two weeks 
after Tobias's death Adelheid too was buried. 11 

This conversation gives us two important hints: Heidi's parents had loved each other - 
the term "been fond of each other" is certainly the utmost praise for marital life which the 
priggish Johanna Spyri would chose, since she clearly avoids any reference to love or 
sexuality. Compared to her the British model author for delicately portrayed human 
relationships, Jane Austen (1775-1817), is utterly outspoken in her praises of love and 
matrimony. The quoted paragraph introduces another topic as well, that of mental illness. 
Adelheid is depicted as one who "was often in such a condition that it was almost 
impossible to tell whether she was asleep or awake." There is a clear relationship to 
Heidi's own sleepwalking in Frankfurt later on, which seems to be the only way for Heidi 
to compensate her longing for the Alpine world, but above all for her beloved 
grandfather. When Heidi lived with her grandfather there was no need for sleep-walking. 


Jack Zipes, "The International Scene in Children's Literature," In Children's Literature, 5 (1976): 
1 ' Johanna Spyri, Heidi, 8. 


On the contrary, we are told that "the moonlight came. . . brightly through the round 

opening and fell directly on Heidi's couch. . . she lay perfectly calm and peaceful." The 

same happens when Klara is sharing the hayloft with Heidi: "Oh, Heidi, see, it is just as if 

we were riding in the sky in a high carriage! . . . Then Heidi laid her head on her round 

arm and was asleep in a moment." So Heidi's sleepwalking is caused by grief, as might 

her mother Adelheid's, who seems to escape to sickness in times of great emotional 


But Dete's conversation with Barbel provides us with another strand of 

information, when she reports about Heidi's grandfather as a drunkard and gambler who 

brought grief and misery about his own family, who is supposed to have killed somebody 

in a quarrel and is therefore deeply isolated. In connection with the death of his only son 

and his daughter-in-law "it was hinted and openly declared that it was a judgment the 

uncle deserved for his godless life. It was said so to his face; even the priest admonished 

him seriously to do penance, but he only grew more and more surly and obdurate." 14 This 

does not hinder Dete from bringing her niece Heidi to this threatening, misanthropic old 

man, after she and her old mother had looked after the child for three years and after 

Heidi had to stay with an old woman, when Dete's own mother died. This old woman, 


. . .was always cold, so that she liked to sit by the kitchen fire or the stove in her 
chamber. Heidi [four years old! My parenthesis] had been obliged to stay very 
near, so that the old woman could see where she was, because she was deaf and 


Ibid., 27 f. 


Ibid., 299 f. 


Ibid., 8 f. 


could not hear her. This had often been very irksome to Heidi, who longed to run 

outside. 15 

This early deprivation of any form of movement certainly explains Heidi's strong 
feelings of being caged in Frankfurt, where going "home" has become a synonym for 
freedom. 16 So at the age of not yet five years, Heidi becomes an orphan and was brought 
up in three different families or looked after by a single person. From the point of 
psychology it must have been her very first year which enabled her to cope with at least 
some of the hardships to follow. This first year was spent under the care of loving 
parents, and the psychologists of all ages do not tire of emphasizing the importance of the 
first year of life in a child's upbringing. When at the age of not yet five years she comes 
to her grandfather, she finds him a loving person, as well. Contrary to what is reported 
about the old man, this grandfather is caring (providing her with food, p. 24), looking 
after her in a stormy night, (p. 27), protective (his concern for her delicate nature which he 
sees linked to her mother, p. 69), encouraging Heidi's curiosity (when she wants to see 
the hut, p. 1 8) and her skills (where she manages to lay the table, p. 23). He can see the 
child's gifts: "She is not lacking in intelligence," (p. 19) "She knows what she sees..., her 
eyes are in the right place" (p. 25) and so his affirmation is an antidote to Fraulein 
Rottenmeier, whose educational skills as a governess seem to consist of intimidation and 
contempt, which were unnerving for this particular pupil. 

Both representatives of education, Fraulein Rottenmeier and the Herr Kandidat, 
are unable to recognize Heidi's immense creativity. But where Herr Kandidat simply fails 


Ibid., 29. 


to interpret the richness that Heidi sees in the mere pictures of letters, which she 
compares "to a little horn and another to a beak, [which made her] exclaim with delight: 
"It is a goat!" or "It is the robber-bird!," and which he is unable to use as an element of 
teaching, Fraulein Rottenmeier employs what Alice Miller terms as "Black 

1 8 

Pedagogics." When Heidi had made a tour in order to see the "mountains" around 
Frankfurt and had ended up with the tower-keeper's kittens, Fraulein Rottenmeier thinks 
it appropriate to announce that the only means of educating her will be putting her into 
the cellar: "only one punishment which could have any effect on you, for you are a 
barbarian; but we shall see whether you will not become civilized down in the dark cellar 
with lizards and rats." 19 She, who is afraid of kittens and turtles herself, thinks of rats as 
the apt means to "civilize" the "barbarian." But her "black pedagogics" reach the 
standard of true sadism, when she forces this child of eight years to sit still and alone in 
her room after lunch time: "Every day after dinner [ in Germany, 'dinner' is taken at 
lunch time] Heidi sat for two long hours quiet and alone in her room, for she was not 
allowed to run outdoors in Frankfurt as she did on the Aim." 

Klara's grandmother, the lively old Frau Sesemann, is the only one to see through 
this kind of pedagogics, when Fraulein Rottenmeier complains that Heidi has [not] "the 
slightest inclination to do anything..." and Mrs Sesemann answers: "I should do the 

16 Ibid., 119. 

17 Ibid., 118. 

Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing, and the Roots of Violence, 
trans, by Hildegarde and Hunter Hannum ( New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983). The term "black" has 
negative, but not racial implications in Europe. 

19 Spyri, Heidi, 117. 

20 Ibid., 118. 


same if I had to sit there alone as this child does, I assure you, and you would see how 

7 I 

you would speak of my nonsense in refined society." 

The friendliness of this grandmother who does not act as a "Gnadige Frau"[the 
official term of address used and still in use for ladies of upper classes in Germany] helps 
and enables Heidi to learn to read, but fails to explore Heidi's genuine sorrows. Even 
weeping and sobbing is forbidden to Heidi, when she forms the idea that Goatherd 
Peter's grandmother might have died. Fraulein Rottenmeier again acts in a true sadistic 
way: "Adelheid, we have had enough of your useless screaming! ...if you ever again, 
while you are reading your stories, give vent to such an outbreak, I will take the book 
way from you and not return it." This book is Heidi's greatest treasure because it gives a 
glimpse of her lost Alpine world via its pictures. So Fraulein Rottenmeier immediately 
achieves the desired effect: "Heidi turned pale with fright. The book was her dearest 
treasure. She hastily dried her tears and swallowed and choked down her sobs with all her 
might. . .many a time she had to make such an effort to control herself and not scream out, 


that Klara often said...: "Heidi, you are making the most frightful faces I ever saw!" 
Nobody even questions the results of these attempts of "civilization," when Heidi not 
only gives up speaking but eating, as well. It is the servant Sebastian, who tries to coax 
Heidi into eating just a little bit by telling her: "Take some of it, Mamsell, it is fine. Not 
such a little! A good spoonful, and another!" But childhood horrors cannot be solved by 
eating, solely, and the unconventional "grandmamma Sesemann" is far away on her 
estate in the North of Germany. 

21 Ibid., 138. 


She is the one who advises Heidi to pray, after the child had refused to tell either 
her or Klara about her unhappiness and deep desolation: "When we have a sorrow we 
cannot speak to anybody about, then we tell the dear God in heaven, and ask him to help 
us, for he can take away every sorrow that troubles us." 24 It is unbelievable that a person 
depicted with as much insight as Mrs. Sesemann does not bother to find out about the 
child's grief. Even she starts to pressurize her when she finds out that Heidi has given up 
praying, because God did not answer, telling her: ". . .when the dear Lord no longer hears 
his [ the supplicant's] voice in prayer, he forgets him, too, and lets him go whither he 
will. But when one is in trouble and complains, 'There is no one to help me!' we feel no 
pity for him, but say: 'You yourself ran away from the dear Lord, who could have helped 
you!" One cannot help but notice the disastrous theological implications this response 
will have on Heidi. To tell this to an eight year old child is genuine cruelty, because it 
makes Heidi responsible for the trouble she is in a threefold way: Not only is she source 
of her own sorrow because she is not patiently waiting ("You see, what you wished to ask 
of him [God] was not good for you just now"), but God himself has righteously left her, 
after she had "left" him. For someone, however, who has left God on his or her own , "we 
feel no pity." This is the exact pattern of self-righteousness which turned Heidi's unhappy 
grandfather into an outcast: ". . .every door was closed to him, and no one wanted to know 
anything more about him. This made him very bitter." This pattern, where the unhappy 


Ibid., 154 f. 


Ibid., 154. 


Ibid.. 143. 


Ibid., 151. 


Ibid., 150. 


Ibid., 7. 


person will always be in the wrong, makes it clear why Spyri is not interested in genuine 

social change. Somehow everybody afflicted is responsible for her or his own misery, 

because at some point in her or his life she/ he will certainly have "left" God or might 

have prayed for something "not good enough . . . just now." So, similar to the theological 

perspective in Gritli 's Children, this "good God" is always in the right, and misery and 

sorrow are always self made and self-inflicted. 

In the second part of the book this God is a mere cliche for the restored happiness 

of nearly everybody. Spyri is not afraid to use the gems of German Protestant Hymns 

such as Paul Gerhardt's beautiful song "Die giildne Sonne," : 

The sun o'erflowing 

With splendor glowing 

From golden fountains 

Pours o'er our mountains 

A spirit quickening glory of light. 

Below I wandered 

And, mournful, pondered, 

But now arising 

With change surprising 

I turn to the sky my enraptured sight, 

Mine eye beholdeth 

What God unfoldeth 

To tell the story 

Of boundless glory - 

How vast the sum of his infinite might! 

but fails to give the message that this pastor was not only suffering from great private 
afflictions, but that he was acting politically as well, when he resigned his post in the 


Ibid., 198 f. 


Berlin Nikolaikirche in 1 666, because he was unwilling to sign the "Syncretist edicts of 

the Elector of Brandenburg." Spyri exploits the hymn from the point of creating an 

"atmosphere," where the metaphors "sun" and "grief are used. From now on Heidi has 

become a mere example and exponent of the message of the "good God" herself. She is 

the child-preacher, who even converts her grandfather, the Prodigal Son: 

[Heidi] lay there with folded hands, for Heidi had not forgotten to pray. On her 
rosy face was an expression of peace and blessed trust that must have appealed to 
her grandfather, for he stood there a long, long time without moving or taking his 
eyes from the sleeping child. Then he, too, folded the hands and half aloud, with 
bowed head, said: 

"Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before Thee and am no more worthy to 
be called Thy son!" and great tears rolled down his cheeks. 

From now on the grandfather returns to the fold, accepted by the priest and the 
congregation. All hardships are forgotten. 

When the miserable Doctor from Frankfurt, whose only daughter had just died, 
seeks healing in the Alpine landscape, it is the child-preacher Heidi again, who reminds 
him: "[You] must tell everything to the dear Lord, if [you do not] know what to do" and 
reminds him ". . .you must wait. . . and keep thinking: 'Surely now the dear Lord knows 
some joy which is to come out of this by and by, so I must be still for a little and not run 
away from Him.' Then all at once it will happen so that you will see quite clearly that the 
dear Lord had nothing but good in His mind all the time." 30 The message is clear: he, the 
healer who helped Heidi once to recover her physical health by sending her back to her 
grandfather and the Swiss Alps, is in need of salvation himself. For Spyri the bodily 

Ibid., 204. 
30 Ibid., 241. 


restoration counts less than the spiritual one. So Jack Zipes states correctly: "Material 
poverty is insignificant when one considers the real meaning of richness: to be rich means 
possessing faith in God and behaving like a good Christian - that is, making sacrifices to 

T 1 

benefit the wealthy and looking forward to paradise in the world hereafter." 
Nevertheless, I wished that Zipes would make it clear that he is referring to a "good 
Christian" according to Spyri, because a "good Christian" in general is a commonplace in 
itself and needs to be specified more concretely. 

This blend of beautiful biblical narratives, old hymns, and a rigid picture of a God 
who never seems to be near in Heidi, is hardly endurable. The cliches repeat themselves 
again and again. As the grandfather is "cured" and converted by the narration of the 
Prodigal Son, so the doctor is healed by a hymn, which his mother used to sing and which 
brings back his childhood memories. The illustration of this scene by an anonymous artist 
makes it quite clear that here a ten year old child soothes and nurtures an adult man. The 
motherly expression on Heidi's face is not to be misinterpreted. This is a world, where 
adults only count and little girls are used as a means of either making adults happy or 
entertaining them by their "innocent" droleries. But the little girl Heidi is never allowed 
to stand for her own self. 

HeidFs success 

For the most part, the treatment of "God" is seen similarly as in Gritli 's Kinder. 
The genuinely new and overwhelming impression in Heidi is Spyri 's outlook and her 


Zipes, 166f. 


dealing with the topic of "nature." There is no comparison with the rigid and artificial 

description of nature as it was seen in Gritli 's Children. In Heidi Spyri succeeds in 

painting landscapes of such an incredible beauty that will stay in the memory of her 

readers, despite the faults depicted above: 

The valley lay far below in the full morning sunshine. In front of her Heidi saw a 
great wide field of snow, stretching high up into the deep blue sky; on the left 
stood an enormous mass of rock, on each side of which a higher tower of bald, 
jagged crags rose into the azure and looked very sternly down on Heidi. The child 
sat as still as a mouse; everywhere there was a great, deep stillness; only the wind 
passed very softly and gently over the tender bluebells and the radiant golden 
rock-roses... She drank in the golden sunlight, the fresh air, the delicate fragrance 
of the flowers, and desired nothing more than to remain there forever. 

Even the great Swiss poet Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, whose mother and sister 
Betsy both were befriended by Spyri, acknowledges that "the most beautiful chapter 
probably is the first day on the pasture." The landscape that Spyri depicts here, is 
exceptional in its depictions of beauty when compared to children's books written in her 
own time or since. Bettina Hurrelmann justly states: "Those passages [depicting the 
"landscape of the soul"] which repeat themselves, cause a sensuous, almost bewitching 
effect" and continues: "Here the whole human being is addressed and feels that in a 
religious sense he or she is meant as a whole. A mythical understanding of a 
homogeneous whole clearly rings. . . ." j4 Hurrelmann develops the theory that it is in 
Heidi only that Spyri dared to "draw a piece of history on the soul which is far more 

32 Spyri, Heidi, 33 f. 

Jiirg Winkler, Johanna Spyri: Aus dem Leben der " Heidi" -Autorin (Zurich, Ruschlikon, 1986), 
146 [translation mine]. 

Hurrelmann, 206 [translation mine]. 


dangerous... and provides the real fascination of the story of Heidi, a fascination which 
makes itself felt even today." 35 

Hurrelmann refers to an analysis about Heidi, written by Hansjiirgen Kiepe 
which to her proves that "the presentation of nature [in Heidi]., is no realistic description 
but an evocation of a landscape of the soul, God's landscape, in which individual and 
nature are united." 7 But Kiepe titles his whole essay "Go d 's Landscape'" and sees it as a 
"wordly 'unio mystica"' and continues vaguely that "a certain proximity towards a 
mystic experience of God is not to be ruled out completely in Johanna Spyri's 


depictions" He convincingly proves that "Spyri's landscapes light- and wind- 
appearances" and states that "[these] light- and fragrance-appearances and the sounds of 
wind which dominate the manifestations of landscape... are not experienced as 
reality. . .but give the landscape as a whole a magical character." 40 He concludes that "in 
the mystic character of experiencing landscape ... Johanna Spyri's landscape proves to be 
God's landscape." 41 Kiepe speaks of Spyri's "unpretentious religiosity," 42 but fails to see 
through it. He does not analyze Spyri's image of God, which probably is not his topic. 
His topic is the "unio mystica" of humankind, landscape, and a God that is taken for 

Ibid., 206. [translation mine] 

Hansjiirgen Kiepe, "Landschaft Gottes: Zur Rolle der Verbzusatze in Johanna Spyri's "Heidi" in 
Wirkendes Wort 17 (1967): 410-429. 

Hurrelmann, 206 [translation mine]. 
Kiepe, 426 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 415 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 424 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 428 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 428 [translation mine]. 



Bettina Hurrelmann has a deeper insight, when she calls Spyri's portrayals of 
landscape an "evocation of a soul-landscape." Both Hurrelmann' s assumptions of Heidi 's 
depiction of a "history of the soul" and the presentation of a landscape as a "landscape of 
the soul," uniting nature and the individual - could explain Heidi' s success even today. 
A world in which the individual and nature are exploited to a degree that is unheard of, 
will react with a craving for realms where the individual can find new sources of support 
and nourishment, thus enabling it to cope with an inimical reality. A "landscape of the 
soul," uniting nature and the individual could be the solution. 

For Gisela Wilkending the experience of "disease and separation" is the center of 
Heidi. And she continues: "It is the experience of homelessness which on first sight the 
author solely places on to the opposition of the Alpine world as home and the large city 
Frankfort as the quintessence of civilization causing disease." But at the same time 
Wilkending sees "Frankfurt as the necessary room for development." 4 It would comprise 
the "craving for harmony in a deeply discordant world," the experience of being injured 
and in need of a "perpetual salubrious climate." The "injured child" is the realization of 
the 20 century with two World Wars and its fundamental experience of homelessness 
that makes this book a classic. This experience is shared by children of all colors all over 
the world. It is more than Jack Zipes' statement that Heidi "is a figure of the infantile, 

Wilkending., 245 [translation mine]. 


regressive fantasy which desires a lost innocence that never was." Bettina Hurrelmann 

has a deeper understanding when she writes: 

Heidi procures the license for children and adults to regress. He who is of the 
opinion that regression in children's literature ought not be permitted may 
criticize the novel as trivial. But he misunderstands that all great literature helps 
us to revive archaic yearnings in ourselves, to fetch them back into our 
consciousness and to solve unconscious tensions. It is not that we shall become 
like the heroes but that we find out something about ourselves which perhaps 
helps us. 45 

Mary McClintock Fulkerson develops an interesting theory about the reading of 
romances. Those women involved "understand their obsessive romance reading as 
resistance to the domination of their lives by husbands and children" and she cites Janice 
Radway who worked with a group of romance readers: "Radway argues that romance 
readers' use of the literature has a kind of Utopian function as well as a compensatory- 
ideological one." 46 

This interpretation does not seem to be so far away from Hurrelmann' s "archaic 
yearnings" for rooms where we find ourselves wanted, accepted, and consoled. Seen 
from this point of view, whole passages of the first part of Heidi offer a nourishment for 
the soul we all need, may we be old or young. 

The healing aspect of literature is analyzed by Peter Gilmour who found out that 

the healing dimension of classic and contemporary texts, like medicine, is an 
imprecise science. The objectivity of the existence of any given text must be 
filtered through the subjectivity of the potential and actual relationship between 
story and audience. The mystery of the relational process must be honored, 
protected, and preserved. This is particularly significant when highlighting the 


Zipes, 167. 

Hurrelmann, 212 [translation mine]. 

Mary McClintock Fulkerson, "Contesting Feminist Canons: Discourse and the Problems of Sexist 
Texts," Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 7 (1991), 68 f (53-73) [italics mine]. 


healing dimension of the narrative dynamic ... Texts ... like medicine become an 
important part of but not the sole element of healing 


This healing aspect of literature certainly refers to Heidi and explains the book's great 


From Phyllis Trible we learn that 

stories are the style and substance of life. They fashion and fill existence. From 
primeval to eschatological vistas, from youthful dreams to seasoned experiences, 
from resounding disclosures to whispered intimacies, the narrative mode of 
speech prevails... Storytelling is a trinitarian act that unites writer, text, and 
reader in a collage of understanding. 48 

This level of narrative art is certainly achieved in parts of Heidi. 

David Tracy tells us about the criteria of a "classic": 

The notion of a classic is not confined to classicist norms. Rather, the experience 
of the classic remains a permanent feature of any human being's cultural 
experience . . . My thesis is that what we mean in naming certain texts, events, 
images, rituals, symbols and persons "classics" is that here we recognize nothing 
less than the disclosure of a reality we cannot but name truth. 49 

This passage conveys two important messages: firstly, a classic is linked with a 

human being's cultural experience, secondly, a classic discloses truth. Both aspects fit 

into Heidi, part one. But Tracy reveals the other half of the coin as well when he looks 

through theologies: 

The difference between conservative Protestant evangelical theologies and 
fundamentalist, the difference between the traditionalism of Archbishop 
Lefevbre's movement and the profound respect for tradition in Hans Urs von 

Peter Gilmour, "The Healing Dimension of Classic and Contemporary Texts", Religious 
Education, 89 (1994): 203f. 

Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives (Philadelphia: 
Fortress Press, 1 984), 1 . 

David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination: Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism (New 

York: Crossroad, 1987), 108. 


Balthasar is a difference become a chasm. Indeed, fundamentalist and 
authoritarian theologies, properly considered, are not theologies at all. 

This is certainly the case with Spyri's adaptation of a "good God," who serves as 
a rigid monument of patriarchy. We see, then, that many reasons have been adduced for 
Heidi's success as a children's classic. But whether one points to its evocation of the 
"landscape of the soul" (Hurrelmann), or its embodiment of the experience of "disease 
and reparatism" ( Wilkending), or its retrieval of lost innocence (Zipes), or its more 
profound resuscitation of "archaic yearnings in ourselves" (Hurrelmann) that unlocks a 
"healing" dimension (Gilman), I would only accord classic status to the first part of 
Heidi, 'classic' meaning that this status enables a sort of timelessness. As I have already 
indicated, the second part of the book is marred by its cliched piety and its manipulative 
portrayal of Heidi as a foil of the "good God." But perhaps these theological deficiencies 
will be understood better after we have learned more about Johanna Spyri's life. 

Johanna Spyri's Location 

Johanna Spyri, born 1 827 as Johanna Louise Heusser, was the fourth of six 
children. Her father owned a small clinic where he housed mentally ill persons. Spyri's 
mother Meta wrote religious poetry and was well known in pietistic circles. In 1 852 Spyri 
married the Zurich jurist Johann Bernhard Spyri, and in 1855 she gave birth to her only 
son Bernhard Diethelm. Judging from her letters, it is to be assumed that Spyri suffered 
from depression and a strong sense of guilt, perhaps linked with her pietistic education. 

50 Tracy, 99. 


She was befriended by Betsy Meyer, sister of the famous Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, who 
himself suffered from deep depression throughout all his life and whose mother 
committed suicide in 1856. This mother strongly influenced Spyri with her pietism. 

Johanna Spyri probably was unhappy in her marriage and felt guilty about it. She 
wrote to Betsy Meyer when she was expecting her son: "New life never rises unless the 
old one deteriorates; I look towards my young life and let fall off from the old one 
whatever has to be sacrificed. In this procedure I become more silent than ever." 51 

But her depression did not end with the birth of her son: "Yes, dear Betsy, there is 
guilt upon my heart, as well, but I do not know whether it is really the sense of this guilt 
that oppresses me so deeply or something else, linked with it." 52 

When the reformed pastor Cornelius Rudolf Vietor from Bremen in Germany 
came to know Johanna Spyri, he coaxed her into writing, and so her first story appeared 
in 1871, that already cited A Sheet on Vrony 's Grave. So writing seemed to become a 
means of dealing with her depression, and at the same time her personal background, 
however, explained the absence of eroticism and passion. They were probably too strong 
for her and so she escaped into a world of sexless persons, mainly widows and widowers 
(in Heidi itself as many as Goatherd Peter's grandmother, his mother, grandmother 
Sesemann, Heidi's grandfather, Herr Sesemann, the doctor) or spinsters and bachelors 
like Dete, Sebastian, Tinette, Fraulein Rottenmeier, and Herr Kandidat. Sexuality seemed 
to be something highly forbidden and undesirable for Johanna Spyri. On the other hand 


Letter from 3.29.1855, Winkler, 96 [translation mine]. 


she might have been a guilt-ridden woman all her life were it not that she had taken up 

the invitation to writing. 

We have seen so far that Heidi definitely is not "the little unsophisticated 

mountain maiden" Nathan Haskell Dole wants her to be. She is the complicated product 

of a complicated world. These traits make the book a classic. Children raised in a 

complicated world can find traces of themselves in it. The book's faults, comprising the 

whole second part, are the negative theological implications of a "good God" who is a 

mere cliche. Its positive first part, on the other hand, describes a child who is able to 

return to her childhood landscape: 

Rosy clouds floated above, and the sky grew bluer and bluer, and the heights and 
the pasture land seemed flooded with bright gold, for the sun was just rising 
above the lofty cliffs. 

'Oh, how beautiful! Oh, how beautiful! Good morning, grandfather,' Heidi called 
out as she came skipping along. 53 

It shows the incredible joy of someone who is able to return to where he/she 
belongs. And this describes something deep in ourselves; all who have been "homeless" 
at some time, want to find or return to a place where we "belong to" or are "at home" 
within ourselves. 

Heidi compares favorably with Gritli 's Kinder with the exception of the topic of 
"the good God" which is certainly rooted in Spyri's own life as well as in the Europe of 
her time. What theological resources does this story offer? Is there a biblical text which 
conveys a similar message as Heidi? What role do children, particularly girls, play in 
biblical narratives? 

Letter from 5.13.1857, 1 15 [translation mine] all citations after Hurrelmann, 204. 


As response to these questions, I want to establish a literary and hermeneutical 
comparison between Heidi and the unknown handmaiden of 2 Kings 5:1-5 and hope that 
by juxtaposing the Spyri-text of the 19 century with the biblical text that they may 
illuminate each other. I will use the "hermeneutics of critical evaluation' o4 (Elisabeth 
Schiissler Fiorenza) as an interpretive tool. 

2 Kings 5:1-7 

The narratives collected here are composed around the prophet Elisha and his 
miracles: Elisha and the Widow's Oil, 2 Kings 4:1-8; Elisha Raises the Shunammite's 
Son, 2 Kings 4:32-37; The Healing of Naaman, 2 Kings 5:1-14; The Aramean Attack Is 
Thwarted, 2 Kings 6:8-22; The Shunammite Woman's Land Restored, 2 King 8:1-6. But 
they have another astonishing aim: They tell about the healing of "outsiders" and so can 
be compared to Jesus and his healing of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman, for 

The NRSV title of this passage is "Naaman and Gehazi." Naaman, the great 
commander of the Aramaic army, who seems to have achieved everything in life, suffers 
from one blemish, he is a leper. Gehazi is the servant of the prophet Elisha. But when 
Naaman is healed from his illness, Gehazi has to take over Naaman' s leprosy, because he 
is greedy for Naaman' s money which the prophet would not take. 

The narrative starts with praises of Naaman' s achievements: "He was a great man 
. . . and highly regarded . . .through him the Lord had given victory to Aram ... He was a 

53 Spyri, 225. 


valiant soldier, but he had leprosy." (2 Kings 5:1). The next verse introduces the 
nameless young woman who will be the means of curing Naaman: "...bands from Aram 
. . .had taken captive a girl from Israel, and she served Naaman' s wife. She said to her 
mistress, 'If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure 
him of his leprosy."' 

These two sentences which are all we have, reveal a great deal about the person 
who says them. The girl is a captive, she is an adolescent with no influence whatsoever, 
she does not even have a name. But she is a gentle girl, not hardened by her captivity. 
She does not think evil; on the contrary, she wants her master to be healed. She has great 
faith in Elisha's doings. And she must have had a way of quietly convincing others: 
Naaman' s wife must have spoken about the girl's advice to her husband, because he is 
willing to do what the girl suggests. All in all, this is an unusual girl with an unusual 
faith. The story contrasts her to the king of Israel and the commentary continues: 
"Ironically, the king of Israel does not seem to know what the captive slave girl in 
Damascus knows: that there is a prophet in Samaria who could perform the miracle. He 
sees only the impossibility of the case; she sees its possibility." 33 

The reflections on this text compare her way of acting to the greedy behavior of 
Gehazi: "In stark contrast to Gehazi is the unnamed Israelite slave at the beginning of the 
chapter. Despite her lowly status and her captivity in a foreign land, she is faithful. 
Although far from her homeland, her eyes of faith perceive hope for her Aramean master. 

Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, But She Said: Feminist practices of Biblical Interpretation (Boston: 
Beacon Press. 1992), 68-73. 

Choon-Leong Seow, "1 and 2 Kings," in Daniel J. Harrington, ed., The New Interpreter's Bible, 

vol. Ill (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), 193. 


The king of Israel, on the other hand, could only despair, even though salvation was at 
hand in Samaria." 56 

Another of the few comments we find about this story conveys a very 
condescending attitude towards the unnamed girl: "Once more a major role is played by a 
minor biblical character. How little did she realize, the humble Hebrew girl, what her 
native piety - her only distinction - was to achieve. She did not hide her faith in God; she 
used it." 57 

From the biblical text we cannot tell, if her "native piety" was her sole distinction. 

The interpretation does not analyze what is meant by "native" piety. Is there a collective 

piety to be found in a whole nation? And if so, how come that this "piety" did not hinder 

that great harm was done to the "pious nation," and its "humble girls" could be taken 

away as slaves? The excellent essay by Lai Ling Elizabeth Ngan deals with the subject 

from a far deeper insight: 

...The unit ends with an added notice that not only is Naaman's flesh restored, it is 
like that of a "young boy", a perfect counterpart to the captive "young girl" in 
verse 2. The beginning of the story provides a great contrast between Naaman and 
the nameless young maid. At the end of the story, he has become like her. . . .The 
servants .. are instrumental in moving Naaman from his problem to its solution. 
...Rejecting the young maid's suggestion as foolishness or the servants' reasoning 
as contemptible would have thwarted the movement. It is ironic that those with 
power throw up obstacles while those who are without power move efficiently 

r o 

toward the desired goal. 

Ngan contrasts the girl's behavior to that of Elisha's servant Gehazi: 

56 Ibid., 198. 

Raymond Calkin, "II Kings," in George Arthur Buttrick, ed., The Interpreter 's Bible (New York: 
Abingdon Press, 1954), vol. Ill, 210. 

Lai Ling Elizabeth Ngan, "2 Kings 5: Healing God and Man," Review and Expositor 94 (Fall 
1997), 591. 


Though both are servants and have similar stations in life, the young maid is 
decidedly in a worse situation. Torn from family and homeland, she is the spoils 
of war. Whatever normalcy of life has been stripped from her, she is now a slave 
in her captor's house. She is the lowliest in Syrian society, an enslaved foreigner, 
and at that, a young female. Being found in such devastating circumstances, it is 
all the more remarkable that she speaks words of genuine concern for her master's 
well-being, and not of bitterness and hatred or despair. Her speech (v. 3) is a 
testament of her gracious spirit and of her faith in God. The young maid is not 
called, has not been sent, and will not be paid for her service to God, but in the 
difficult situation in which she finds herself, she remains a faithful witness to the 
God of Israel... Even if nothing else changes in the young maid's life, one thing is 
certainly different. She is no longer the lone Yahweh worshipper in Naaman's 
house. 5 

Although Heidi definitely is no "captive" in the sense as is the unnamed 
adolescent, she herself is taken to Frankfurt against her own wishes: "I shall not come," is 
her answer to her Aunt Dete (p. 74), and only when Dete promises her "you can come 
home if you want to" (p. 75) and leaves her under this deception she is willing to go. We 
learn nothing about the conditions of life for the slave girl in Syria, but we have seen how 
much Heidi was exposed to the cruelties of Fraulein Rottenmeier and even the friendly 
Frau Sesemann lacked insight into the child's sufferings. Nevertheless Heidi remains the 
gentle child. Like the captured girl she is not hardened by her "exile" but more mindful 
and attentive to others, as for example to the crippled Klara. Although Heidi is robbed of 
her own life in Frankfurt and - to a certain degree - her childhood, there is a resistance in 
her spirit. But it needs a "deus ex machina" in the person of the doctor who sees that "her 
condition is no illness that can be cured with powders and pills" (p. 171). 

When Heidi is back to where she belongs, she starts liberating others as we have 
seen. Klara is healed. Goatherd Peter's grandmother restored to happiness, the doctor 

59 Ibid., 594. 


provided with a substitute daughter by Heidi in person. Heidi is even willing to sacrifice 

her newly gained happiness for the sake of the doctor when she tells him: "I will truly go 

with you to Frankfort [sic] now, and I will stay with you as long as you like," (p. 250) 

because she cannot bear to see him unhappy. When he refuses, he does it in an 

ambiguous way, with tinges of a lover and a father united: "If I am ever sick and alone, 

will you come to me then and stay with me? Can I think that then some one will care for 

me and love me?" (p. 251) 

There is no question of what Heidi herself would like to do in her future. Both her 

grandfather and the doctor have made plans for her already: 

"My dear uncle," said the doctor. . ., as he was standing . . . with the old man 
[Heidi's grandfather], "you must look at the matter as I do. I share all joy in the 
child with you, as if next to you I were the one to whom the child belongs; I will 
share all obligations and care for the child as well as I know how. So I have also 
my right in our Heidi, and can hope that she will care for me in my old age and 
stay with me; this is my greatest desire. Heidi shall share my property as my own 
child; so we can leave her without any anxiety when we have to go away from her 
- you and I." 60 

For unmarried women of Spyri's time it is the greatest gift to be provided for. It is 
clear that Heidi will have no further education and as marriage is a difficult subject for 
Spyri, as we have seen, it will be best for her to stay single. Both the grandfather and the 
doctor do not feel that they are acting in a selfish way, on the contrary: "The uncle 
pressed the doctor's hand for a long time; he spoke not a word, but his good friend could 
read in the old man's eyes the emotion and keen delight which his words [to provide for 
Heidi] had aroused." (p. 363) 

60 Spyri, Heidi, 362 f. 


We do not hear about a reward for the biblical slave-girl. So Lai Ling Elizabeth 
Ngan observes: "The text does not record what happens to Naaman and his household 
upon his return. Is the young maid rewarded for her suggestion? Does he free her to 
return home, or does she continue to be a maid for his wife?" 61 We can only speculate 
that a man who was willing to offer Elisha's unfaithful servant Gehazi "two talents of 
silver... with two changes of clothings" (2 Kings 5:23) might have been similarly 
generous to a captive who sent him to the right address. 

The Deuteronomistic History which was compiled in the time of the Babylonian 
Captivity in the 6 century BCE had pointed out in the Elisha stories in particular how 
hard it was in these times to be a female and to be on one's own, to be a captive. Spyri's 
story from the 1 9 century CE does not fight against the hardships for females but takes 
them as God-given. The widow Brigitta, the late goatherd Peter's wife, cannot provide 
her blind mother with as much as an appropriate bed or a shawl to keep her warm in 
winter. But she bears her fate in silence. So for Spyri the utmost that can be done for a 
female is to provide for her future as the doctor and Heidi's grandfather do. But the price 
has to be paid by the girl Heidi: no further education, no personal happiness, no self- 
determined life. The model for this life is nursing, nurturing, healing. Under certain 
circumstances this can a noble model, indeed, but I suggest that it should be a model for 
both, man and woman. 

61 Ngan, 594. 

Otto Geit, ed, Sachkunde Religion I (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1984), 3 If. 

F.L. Cross et al., ed., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (New York: Oxford 
University Press, 1990), 396. 


Heidi's way from her "captivity" in Frankfurt ended up with being provided for 
by the doctor and her grandfather. We learn nothing about a possible end of captivity of 
the Hebrew enslaved. The question remains whether there is another form of "captivity" 
which might link both of the girls, the question of a "theological captivity." We can 
answer this question for Naaman's slave girl. Her master had experienced and confessed 
in public "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel" (2 Kings 
5:15). This confession certainly will have ended the theological captivity for her in a 
house that used to worship in the house of Rimmon (v. 18). As Ngan stated above: "She 
is no longer the lone Yahweh worshipper in Naaman's house." 

But what about Heidi? Spyri's pietistic upbringing, that carried with it a particular 

mode of Scriptural interpretation, is certainly to be traced both in Gritli 's Children and 

Heidi. Her rigid and guilt-ridden portrayal of the "good God" is crippling for all, children 

and adolescents, as well as adults. From that point of view her novels are suppressive. 

Whereas Naaman's slave girl probably found some sort of theological liberation due to 

the fact that her master was healed, there is no liberating theological message in Spyri's 

novels. The "good God" remains the ambiguous and therefore threatening God of 

patriarchy. It would need a new message to liberate both Gritli' s Children as well as 

Heidi. This message cannot be that of a God acting like a policeman: 

That was a wicked deed [Peter's getting rid of Klara's wheel chair]... You see, 
whoever does a wicked thing and thinks no one knows about it is always 
mistaken. The dear Lord sees and hears everything, and as soon as he notices that 
a person wants to conceal his wicked deed he quickly awakens a little watchman, 
that was placed in him at his birth, and that sleeps in him until the person does 
something wrong. And the little watchman has a little goad in his hand with 
which he continually pricks the person so that he has no rest for a moment. And 
with his voice he also torments him further, by constantly calling to him in a 


torturing way: 'It will all come out! You are going to be punished!' So he lives in 
continual fear and trembling, and is no longer happy, not a bit. 

Here we find the perpetuation of ideas about a Christian education similar to those of 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's in his poem Die wandelnde Glocke (The Walking Bell). 

This poem, which I hated in my childhood, describes a child "who never took the trouble 

to go to church." 64 So the child's mother threatens that "the bell will come and fetch 

you." The child, who very reasonably judges: "the bell is hanging up there in the belfry," 

does not care and goes into the fields as it always does. But then "the bell comes 

wobbling," and the poor child in sheer terror hastens to church. From now on it will 

follow the bell's peal immediately. The interesting fact is that in this poem Goethe 

combines mother and bell: "The bell, bell, does not sound any longer/ The mother did not 

lose time./ But what a terror! Behind [the child] the bell comes wobbling." It is as if the 

bell is obedient to the mother's threatening. Exactly the same threat is expressed in the 

above quoted Spyri-text, and the mother is transformed into grandmother Sesemann. The 

fact that even I as a child of the 20 th century experienced a slight terror in connection with 

this poem proves that I must have been threatened with the same text myself. 

The new and liberating message could be the one that Rita Nakashima Brock 


Christian theologians have stepped back from their nineteenth-century optimism 
about human nature to a stronger emphasis on the pervasiveness of human sin and 
on the need for us to acknowledge our sinful state and responsibility for evil. 
. . .Sin emerges because our relationships have the capacity to destroy us and we 
participate in destruction when we seek to destroy ourselves or others. Hence sin 

Spyri, 348f. 
Johann Wol 
deutsche Balladenbuch. (Konigstein/Ts: Athenaum, 1978), 107. 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Die wandelnde Glocke, in Beate Pinkerneil, ed., Das grofie 


is a sign of our brokenheartedness, of how damaged we are, not how evil, 
willfully disobedient, and culpable we are. Sin is not something to be punished, 
but something to be healed. 65 

The healing aspect that the "landscapes of the soul" in Heidi provided had to be enlarged 
by this aspect of sin as "brokenheartedness" in order to bring liberation and support. 
Children all over this world are a prey to abuse and violence already, they should not be 
threatened by stories of punishment and revenge which pretend that they are written for 
"children and for those who love children." 

The question arises whether these ideas are limited to Switzerland and Germany 
only or whether they have to be seen in a wider context. In order to decide this it is 
important to have a look at the origins of European tract literature for children. 

Hesba Stretton and the Religious Tract Society 

European fiction for children and adolescents of the 19 Century was highly 
influenced by the British Religious Tract Society. This society "had a formidable effect 
upon nineteenth century writing for children, and its influence extended well into the 
present century, not only in Britain, but in America, in the dominions, and in Europe 
where the works of many English Evangelical tract tale writers were well known m 

Rita Nakashima Brock. Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power (New York: Crossroad, 
1998), 6f. 

I am indebted to Dr. Verena Rutschmann, Zurich, Schweizerisches Jugendbuchinstitut, for this. 

Margaret Nancy Curt, Ministering Angels. A study of Nineteenth-century Evangelical Writing for 
Children (Wormley, Herts.: Five Owls Press, 1979)[ italics mine]. - I am indebted to the English Faculty 


The Religious Tract Society (RTS) was founded in 1 799 for missionary purposes. 
"It was intended to be an evangelical, non-denominational society dedicated to printing 
and distributing tracts. . .By the late 1 820s, it was a publisher of religious periodicals, 
children's books, and collected sermons as well as tracts, and its publications were 
circulated in Great Britain and overseas... their significant contribution to late 
nineteenth-century children's publishing including the Boy 's Own Paper, the Girl 's Own 


Paper and numerous books by Hesba Stretton. . ." Its products were "published in 200 
languages." 69 

The most successful author to write Evangelical tract fiction was Sarah Smith 
alias "Hesba Stretton" (1832 - 1911). Her novel Jessica 's First Prayer (1866) was to be 
"translated into every European language and most African and Asiatic tongues." The 
author derived her name by using the initials of her siblings and herself: Hannah, 
Elizabeth, Sarah, Benjamin, Anna = Hesba and adopted her "surname" from the place 
where she and her family had lived. 

"In twelve years she became the chief writer of tract fiction for the Religious 
Tract Society. She had hoped however, to be the female Dickens, a second Mrs. 

Library, St. Cross Building, Oxford, GB, who kindly provided me not only with this book but copycards as 

Aileen Fyfe, Dept. History, National University of Ireland, Galway. html. 19/01/02. 

F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1996), 1381. 

The Concise Dictionary of National Biography (Bath: Oxford University Press, 1995), vol. Ill, 
2781 [Italics mine]. 


Gaskell. . . But her experience was limited. . . She insisted on writing Christian 

7 1 


Stretton shares a number of characteristics with her Swiss contemporary, Johanna 
Spyri (1827 - 1901): both of them liked travelling, Hesba Stretton favored Italy and 
Switzerland, Spyri travelled around Switzerland and Italy, as well. Both of them tried to 
maintain their respective privacy as much as possible: "privacy was almost a mania with 


them [the Strettons]," and Johanna Spyri reclaimed her own letters from her friends in 
the later days of her life in order to prevent the writing of any biography. Both of them 
were interested in children: Stretton helped to found the London Society for Prevention 
of Cruelty to Children in 1884, in 1875 Spyri was elected "to the women's commission 
of the lyceum. . ., in 1879 to the board of governors. Here she attends courses for women 
and looks after pupils." 

Spyri 's first narrative Ein Blatt aufVronys Grab ( A Sheet on Vrony 's Grave) is 
clearly tract fiction. Regine Schindler emphasizes this in her essay "Form und Funktion 
religioser Elemente in Johanna Spyris Werken" 15 when she quotes Dieter Richter and his 
judgment about pastor Cornelius Rudolf Vietor: "In his intention to distribute religiously 
elevating tract literature in Bremen in order to oppose the enlightened - liberal tendencies 

71 M.N. Cutt, 116. 


Ibid., 1 16. 

Barbara Helbling, Verena Rutschmann et al., ed., „Dabei erzdhlen Sie so resolut... " Johanna Spyri 
12. Juni 1827 - 7. Juli 1901. Texte und Materialien zur Ausstellung ( Zurich: Johanna Spyri-Archiv, 2001), 
53 [translation mine]. 

[Jon] Anna Spyri, Ein Blatt aufVronys Grab (Bremen: C.Ed. Mttller, 1883). [The German word 
'Blatt' has two different meanings: 'leaf and 'sheet'. The entrance sentence of this narration is: „Ich will 
dir ein Blatt auf dein Grab legen, vielleicht liest es Einer".(I want to put a sheet on your grave, perhaps 
someone will read it.)]. 

Regine Schindler, Nebenan. Der Anteil der Schweiz an der deutschsprachigen Kinder- und 
Jugendliteratur, ed. Schweizerisches Jugendbuch-Institut (Zurich: Chronos, 1999), 173-198. 


of the time pastor Vietor found resonance in the conservative pietist circle of the Zurich 
families Spoendlin, Spyri, and Heusser." 76 

Vrony's story already includes the main topics of Heidi: 1. an unusual, orphaned 
child - here the half-orphan Vrony; 2. first traces of the "landscape of the soul" (pp. 10, 
15, 22); 3. the "missionary child" complex (as Heidi converts her grandfather, so the 
suffering and finally the death of the adult Vrony will convert her abusive husband). 4. 
Again Spyri uses a song by Paul Gerhardt to illustrate the atmosphere, (here: Ich lag in 
schweren Banden/ Du kommst und machst mich los [I lay in heavy bonds/ You come and 
set me free]). 5. Even the "Mignon traces" Bettina Hurrelmann refers to with regard to 
Heidi are there: the desire for a warm country with sunshine, red flowers and yellow 
fruits, although not lemons but apples (p. 1 5f.) 

The difference from Heidi is the distinct knowledge the teenager Vrony has 
concerning her goal in life: "I want to be happy. . . Yes, yes, it is my greatest wish, I want 
to become like those who are happy. I want to have a great happiness in my heart which 


will never cease." But of course such a distinct knowledge in a female has to be erased. 
Vrony will marry a young carpenter against whom everybody had warned her, since he 


"had haughty manners and such wild, black eyes that everybody was afraid of him." He 
is the "other", the unknown, the outcast, so it is hubris to marry someone like him, and 
the punishment is to follow. Whereas in Heidi the outcast-grandfather returns to society 
thanks to his grandchild, the adult Vrony has to pay with her life for the attempt to escape 
from her unkind, narrow, and cold circumstances, personified by an unloving father and 


Ibid., 179f. [translation mine]. 


later by an abusive husband. She dies from being beaten up by her husband who turns out 
to be a drunkard and gambler, but nevertheless will be rescued by the sufferings of his 
dead wife. 

The message is distinct: Women (the adult Vrony) and girls (Heidi) are there to 
save men. With regard to Vrony this message is particularly underlined by the authority 
of the church, when its representative, the pastor, sends the battered Vrony back home to 
her abusive husband, telling her: "Now go home to your husband, and when his wrath 
breaks loose again, so fold your hands and continually pray in your heart: And lead us not 
into temptation! Take out your bible again and attend church on Sundays, you don't 
know what you may gain by this." 9 Although this pastor tells Vrony "Your husband has 
done you highly wrong," yet he convinces the protection seeking woman: "Look, Vrony, 
you must not escape your husband but yourself, otherwise you cannot find peace.'" The 
fact that this pastor is depicted as a kind and even "compassionate" man makes this sort 
of message intolerable: The victim has to endure the pains in order to gain her place in 
heaven, whereas the doer has to be rescued on earth, thanks to her suffering. To connect 
all this with the Lord's prayer is a misuse of the bible as well. According to this tract by 
Spyri it is women who have to suffer on earth, not men. 

That the attitude of the representative of the church is still valid until today is seen 

in a report my fellow student Mabel Katahweire [D.Min. of 2001] gave: 

I came across a woman who knew that her. . .husband was infected [by 
HIV/AIDS] and she wanted to get out of that marriage, so she went to talk 






Spyri, Em Blatt aufVronys Grab, 18, [translation mine]. 
Ibid. 20, [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 45 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 44 [translation mine]. 


to her pastor and the pastor said, "You can't do that! You made vows in 
health or sickness, you have to stay with your husband." And this woman 
told me, "This was between life and death and I didn't want to die. . .1 got out 
of the marriage but I was stopped from having Holy Communion. I was 
punished for leaving my husband, for breaking the vows." 

It is the same pattern: "You have made vows". . .Again it does not interest the priest that 

the woman's life is endangered. But luckily this African woman was no Vrony and did 

not act obediently. 

It seems very likely that Spyri was familiar with the publications of the Religious 
Tract Society. Her mother Meta Heusser belonged to a new pietist revivalist movement, 
which was connected with the Basel Missionary Society. There were close links between 
the Methodist Movements in Great Britain and Germany. That the Religious Tract 
Society's weekly paper, the Girl 's Own Paper, was read in German speaking countries I 
discovered when looking through their Girl 's Own Annual, a collection of the weekly 
magazines into an annual volume. The volume contains the answers to letters written to 
the editor by young women. One of them was addressed to a Ms. Annie Eilles, Muhldorf, 
Bavaria (Germany). The magazine therefore clearly was read on the continent. So, 
many of the religious ideas Spyri had, probably were the general property of her time. On 
the other hand it is astounding how little Spyri referred to the deplorable social state of 
affairs of her fellow countrymen and -countrywomen and that she never intended to look 
for remedies for those grievances. Spyri spent the final years of her life in Zurich: "She 
cares for young girls all the time, but otherwise lives very remote, totally absorbed with 


writing. She does not seem to have shared the social and political questions of the town 
very much." 83 This distinguishes her greatly from Hesba Stretton who was highly 
interested in any social questions and depicted the situation of girls in the slums of Great 
Britain very accurately. This she shares with another well-respected European authoress 
of religious children's and adolescents' literature, the German Ottilie Wildermuth (1817 — 

Religious Children's and Adolescents' Literature in Germany: 
Ottilie Wildermuth 

In South Germany, in Suebia, Ottilie Wildermuth had become a much- 


represented and well read author for children's and girls' books of her time. She, too, 
issued a magazine for adolescents, "Der Jugendgarterf\Garden of Youth) [since 1870], 


another characteristic she shared with the British Stretton. 

Ottilie Wildermuth belonged to an educated middle-class family. Her father was a 
judge with a wide literary knowledge. He collected paintings and cultivated roses. Ottilie 
received an education customary for girls of her century. She attended the local primary 
school, but started learning Latin with her oldest brother. Her relative Rosemarie 
Wildermuth describes her as "curious . . . and thirsty for education, ever since she was a 

Mabel Katahweire, "AIDS, Economics, Gender And Racism," Witness Magazine, vol. 86, 
Number 1/ 2, Jan/Feb 2003, 20-24. 

The Girl 's Own Annual (London: Paternoster Row, vol. XV-No.722, Oct. 28, 1 883), 63. 

B. Helbling. V. Rutschmann, 39 [translation mine]. 

Maria Pfadt, Aufienseiterfiguren bei Ottilie Wildermuth. Beispiele aus ihrer Kinder- und 
Jugendliteratur, in Beitrdge zur Landeskunde. RegelmalMge Beilage zum Staatsanzeiger fur Baden- 
Wurttemberg. No. 4, August 1996, 1 [translation mine]. 

Gustav Sichelschmidt, Liebe, Mord und Abenteuer. Eine Geschichte der deutschen 
Unterhaltungsliteratur. (Berlin: Haude & Spener, MCMLXIX, 200f) [translation mine]. 


child she read a lot: Korner, Schwab, Uhland, Lenau [Suebian authors], Walter Scott - 
and detective novels as well, which were forbidden. In Stuttgart [the capital of Suebia] 
Ottilie completed courses in dancing, sewing, and cooking, obligatory for a daughter of 
the better circles, ... in Tubingen she learned English.'" Later on she made translations 
from French books, and learned Italian and Spanish. She deeply deplored her lack of a 
methodical education: "How I thirsted for an intellectual exchange, for instruction. And 
what vulgar blokes I always had to deal with. No wonder that I quarrelled with them and 
that they could not stand the sight of me. What might perhaps have become of me if my 


intellect had not gone to waste!" 

Although Ottilie Wildermuth was the first woman to receive a "Gold Medal for 


Arts and Science" by Wiirttemberg's King Karl, she never really left behind the 
traditional woman's role. At the age of 26 - late, at a time when the preferred age for a 
woman to marry was 18 - she married a teacher of modern languages, Dr. David 
Wildermuth. She gave birth to five children, two of whom died shortly after their birth. 
Three children survived, Agnes, Adelheid, and the son, Hermann. The qualities of her 
own mother, Eleonore Rooschiitz, are mentioned by Rosemarie Wildermuth only in 
connection with the large Wildermuth household in Tubingen, where guests were always 
welcome. Eleonore helped Ottilie to get along with the manifold expectations of a large 

Rosemarie Wildermuth, Ach, die Poesie im Leben. Ottilie Wildermuths Briefwechsel mit ihrem 
Sohn Hermann, 1865-1877 (Pfullingen: Neske, 1979), 13 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 2 [translation mine]. 
M. Pfadt, 1 [translation mine]. 


Ottilie's correspondence with her son Hermann (who, according to his parent's 
wishes attended the Evangelical-Theological Seminary in Urach), in combination with 
her memoirs in the 'house chronicle', gives a very intimate report. It shows us a highly 
conscientious mother, well read (she is able to support her son not only in questions of 
literature, but criticises his spelling which she explains to him by showing the respective 
etymological roots of the words). So she writes to him when he spoke of 'placed' 
Englishmen where he meant 'blase': "Placed is derived from place and means ..'settled', 
condescending [in German: 'blasiert'] is derived from the French blase, originally Greek 
blaxin (?)= corrupt, damaged. You expose yourself to ridicule by using foreign words 
wrongly.'" She shows a sense for humor, when she remarks to the poet Justinus Kerner 
in 1857: "I believe I only write because the booksellers plague me ... Booksellers have 
ordered books from me in such detail as they would make an order to a seamstress." 90 

She clearly dinstinguishes between the different gender roles of parents when she 
comments: "Between father and son there are old roles existing with many variations, 
which is very frequently the mother's lot," 91 meaning that mothers have to smooth the 
ground emotionally, so that fathers finally can step onto it. But her main concern is her 
son's spiritual well-being. "Don't forget to view your own heart and life, don't forget to 
pray and if you cannot help it, pray like the blessed Francke [Hermann August Francke, 
1663-1727, German Pietist and educationist], who in moments of highest afflictions 
cried: 'O God, if you are there, make yourself manifest to me!' God enables the upright 

R. Wildermuth, 150 [translation mine]. 

M. Pfadt 1 [translation mine]. 

R. Wildermuth, 1 1 [translation mine]. 


to be successful." She and her husband destined their son for the priesthood and she is 

deeply upset when the son refuses point blank to become a pastor, quitting the seminary 

in order to become a physician. Although she is deeply worried she tells Hermann: "I and 

the dear father will be far from forcing you into a profession which above all has to be 

taken from the bottom of one's heart. . ." And she herself takes refuge in prayers 

Give light and truth from above 

So that I will not rest and insist 

On my own will. 

Be thou a friend and faithful counsellor 

To complete what is good. 94 

Ultimately Hermann did indeed become a physician, a doctor for psychiatry and 
neurology. He was a celebrity, and his fame resulted in invitations to New York because 
of his skills. But the influence of his mother, who died shortly before he was able to 
finish his studies, is still traceable. In 1 890 his unmarried sister Adelheid and he founded 
the Ottilienhaus, a psychiatric clinic for women and children. And even the choice of his 
wife betrays the strong bonds to his mother. He is to marry Meta Glitsch, daughter of a 
family who belongs to the movement of the Moravian Brethren, a group which solely 
depends on God's word. 

Ottilie Wildermuth's letters are unique documents. Martin Kazmaier calls them 
the "art of letter- writing in the dressing gown," 5 because all the letters went in baskets 
with the washing Ottilie sends her son for four years. The letters show "no narrow but a 


Ibid., 42 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 156 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 221 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 9 [translation mine]. 


rigorous conception of life." 96 This rigorous view of the world will be part of her own 
literary writing, which never conceals social grievances, but whose main concern always 
was the salvation of the human soul. This is reflected in Wildermuth's novel, excerpted 
and analyzed below: 

Der Peterli von Emmental (Peterli of Emmental) 


Peterli is the son of a well-known mountain guide in the Swiss Alps. His mother 
died when the son was a little boy. Although his father earns enough money during the 
summer months as a highly experienced (though reckless) mountain guide, he is unable 
to manage financial affairs. So the little boy is used to times of great hardship. Peterli 
never gets a regular education. His only source of knowledge and company is Mareili, the 
crippled daughter of a widowed peasant neighbor. Peterli' s father dies during a highly 
dangerous climb which promised to make a lot of money. The orphaned boy is given to a 
farmer who is only interested in Peterli 's faculty as a farm laborer, but not as a person. 

By chance Peterli makes the acquaintance of two German professors, a biologist, 
and a mineralogist. They offer him a job as an apprentice when they realize that he is 
very gifted in both their subjects. Peterli accepts and leaves Switzerland. In Germany, the 
two professors decide to give him a proper education and let him attend their local 
university. As the young man is overwhelmed by his own abilities which he grossly over- 
estimates and as he makes the wrong friends, he nearly fails and gains a very low degree, 


Ibid., 10 [translation mine]. 


just sufficient to study medicine. Full of shame he leaves Germany and becomes a doctor 
for poor people in his former Swiss mountains. He marries a young woman and takes his 
old friend Mareile into his household. By sheer coincidence the two German professors 
happen to meet him, and Peterli is able to convince them that he has made his particular 
way in life, although he did not succeed in making a career as a famous scientist. 

Der Peterli von Emmental - Heidi: A Comparison 

Unlike Johanna Spyri who starts her novel Gritli 's Kinder with a description of a 
make-belief idyllic garden, Ottilie Wildermuth opens her novel with Peterli 's genealogy. 
Peterli' s grandfather used to be a chamois hunter who died in the mountains (just as later 
his son Sepp, Peterli' s father). Sepp is a widower without relatives and friends, he does 
not even have any direct neighbors. So the child Peterli is not born into a functioning 
social system. In that respect he equals Heidi, whose grandfather is a social outcast as 
well. But contrary to the Aim uncle who is reliable in his relationship towards Heidi, who 
can manage economically, Peterli' s father lives hazardously, and this not only in his 
economic circumstances: "With Sepp ... there was always either excess or scarcity... and 
he., never learned how to budget the good money he earned." At the same time he loves 
taking risks: "He was enthusiastic about climbing even the highest mountains. . . In Sepp 
there was his father's blood who had been the most . . . audacious mountaineer. " 9 * 

Ottilie Wildermuth, Eine selfsame Geschichte [This narration is not by Wildermuth but by her 
daughter Agnes]/ Der Peterli von Emmental (Reutlingen: EnBlin & Laiblin, n. d.), 68 [translation mine]. 


Like Heidi, Peterli does not receive a permanent education: "After Christmas he 
attended school. . . He was taller than most of the schoolboys and far more ignorant. So he 
was laughed at."' 9 Luckily the old schoolmaster is a friendly man and no Fraulein 
Rottenmayer. He coaxes Peterli into distinguishing between the single letters. But times 
change when, following the death of the old teacher a new one arrives who is not 
interested in Peterli' s education. 

Similarly to Heidi in Frankfurt, Peterli is not encouraged by his teachers, the main 
education authorities. The sour farmer for whom he herds the goats is dissatisfied with 
the boy. The farmer's favorite phrase is "unnecessary." For him it is "unnecessary" to 
send the boy to school during the summer months, like Peterli' s namesake, the other 
goatherd Peter in Spyri's Heidi. If Peterli delights in stones and plants of which he has an 
astonishing knowledge, this is "unnecessary," too, and even when he succeeds in keeping 
the kitchen garden of the farmer's wife in neat order, this is "unnecessary" as well. 

Peterli' s sole support is Mareili. She is the crippled only daughter of a poor 
widow. But unlike Peterli she is embedded in a loving family. Mother and brothers care 
for her and provide her with food: "Before the mother went into the fields [as a laborer] 
or the boys to school, Mareili had to have her big share [of food], otherwise they had 
rather gone without food for themselves." 100 

But, from the outset Mareili works in her own. She knits, or weaves straw, and 
when the adolescent Peter later comes to say farewell to her, she is proud to have money 

Ibid., 72 [translation mine]. 


of her own: "I have started embroidering and do wreaths for the deceased as well, this 
will always make a handsome sum." 101 Although Mareili never received a proper 
schooling herself, she learned through her brothers and her mother to such an extent, 
"that her mother often wondered how the girl had got her knowledge." 102 When, as a 
grown-up, Peter opens his own surgery, it is Mareili who becomes a stronghold in his 
family as well. She is the main source of education for the doctor's children and as she 
taught Peterli once, she teaches his children by telling them stories. But unlike in Spyri's 
Gritli she is no "mother Clarissa" telling dismayed mothers that their ailing children are 
best kept in heaven. On the contrary: "Although Mareili still is looking forward to 
heaven, she often says she had never believed that things could be well for her in this 
world, too." 103 

This is the main difference between Spyri's message in Gritli and Wildermuth's 
in Peterli. Wildermuth does not design an artificial heaven to substitute an incomplete 
and cruel world, her figures live in this world and make it habitable. 

There are those who fail, for example Berno. Berno is a "student who turned out 
badly, who has cheated his poor mother . . . out of her belongings and has gone through 
his time by drinking without ever passing a single examination." 104 Berno, the swindler, 
nearly drags Peterli into his own demise. When Berno decides to go to America as a 







Ibid., 81 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 69 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 96 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 70 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 126 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 101 [translation mine]. 


quack, Peterli first wants to accompany him, drawn in by the "splendor of the New 
World, the effortlessness of the path they intended to follow." 105 

The change in Peterli 's conscience is brought about by a mountain tour which 
Peterli takes on his own as Berno and his friends are still asleep after a night of excesses. 
The description of the landscape is comparable to Spyri's, although it does not reach the 
bewitching quality of Spyri's "landscape of the soul": "Far away the lake was 
shimmering in the moonlight. . .There the sun rose, light and clear like a pure flame, 
beneath the distinct mirror of the lake, around him [Peterli] the wreath of the Bavarian 
Alps, and above all that wonderful scent from afar, which again and again renews the 
words: 'And God's spirit swept over the face of the waters'." 106 This is the counterpart of 
an earlier landscape description in which Peterli was placed when he was still a goatherd: 
"Deep down was the dark green lake, little white sailing boats glided over it, from afar 
comparable to white doves. Mighty mountains mirrored in its calm floods. Close to the 
banks there stood friendly, bright villages, here and there a lonely little chapel; infinitely 
the mountains spread and high above them the mysterious glaciers towered brilliant white 
into the deep-blue sky." Both experiences, face to face a magnificent landscape are 
linked to their own epiphanies. The younger Peterli prays in view of this splendour, 
adoring God's creation and asks God for a place to live in it. The older Peter has 
abandoned the lesson Mareili taught him and had given up praying altogether. But here 
again he prays for a place to live in God's marvellous creation in exactly the same words. 

Ibid., 112 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 1 15 [translation mine]. 


Contrary to Mrs. Sesemann in Spyri's Heidi Wildermuth never criticizes those 
who have left God; she accumulates evidence, among them the experience Peter had 
made that his scientists showed no interest in church and faith: " 'I don't attend a church,' 
he [the professor for Geology] said with a cool smile, 'but you may go, you'll find the 
way, just follow the others'." 108 And as the scientists don't have any consideration for 
Sundays, Peterli soon abandons his former custom and Berno manages to dismantle the 

Just as Heidi's grandfather returns to the Father in Heaven (and therefore to faith), 
so the parable of the Prodigal Son can be applied to the adult Peter: "And Peter looked 
and gazed and his whole soul gazed as well; he felt surrounded by the air of his native 
country, and the cool, fresh breath of the morning took away on light wings what was 
blurred and impure, which had burdened his soul. There a child knocked again at the 
gates of the parental home and the angels in heaven delighted in it." 109 When later on 
Peter, the doctor of the poor, meets the two German professors again with whom he had 
not kept in touch, he refers to exactly that scenery again: "I cannot but tell you how much 
that morning in the mountains had transformed my heart. I had the impression that God 
himself looked at me out of the blue sky, and I was ashamed to the bottom of my heart, 
that I had taken to eat rinds where I could have lived as a child in the father's house." 110 

Peter makes it quite clear that even his decision to become a doctor for the poor is 
connected with his newly achieved faith: "...and if the Lord followed me, a lost sheep, 

Ibid., 85 [translation mine]. 
Ibid.. 103 [translation mine]. 

109 Ibid., 1 1 5f [translation mine]. 

110 Ibid., 125 [translation mine]. 


until he fetched me from the mountain, how should I myself not be happy to follow the 
poorest and lowliest." 111 But at the same time the adult Peter has no illusions about those 
he wants to help. He does not glorify them, thus splitting them into the good poor and the 
evil wealthy. He calmly observes to his former benefactors: "It was a sour beginning. . . 
often I was told abominable lies and I nearly died from hunger." Peter revisits a 
question he addressed to God as a boy: "If the dear God was so rich why were there so 
many poor and sad people in the world? . . .He was unable to understand this. 'If I was the 
dear God, I should give them beautiful houses in the surrounding mountains, and many 

i i o 

cows." As a boy he had concluded: "But now he thought of the story of the dear Savior 
who had come down from the beautiful, magnificent sky, he, quite poor as well. He was 
said to be now with the dear God and he would know all about the poor people of this 
world and would also think of a poor little boy." 1 

Although Wildermuth continually explores the never-ending connection between 
God and humans, yet her God is not the policeman Spyri depicted in Heidi. Here there is 
no one who threatens sinners and, above all, excludes them. The two atheist professors 
are not converted, they are not (and never have been) social outcasts. They acknowledge 
Peter's "cheerful faith and his peace with God. They liked to listen to him . . . and 
observed it was quite all right that, if he looked at life in that way, he should stick to it. 



Ibid., 127 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 126 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 86 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 87 [translation mine]. 


Whether some of these seeds might have fallen into their hearts as well, it is the Lord of 

the harvest who will find out, in the end." 115 

The motto Ottilie Wildermuth once gave to her son: "God enables the upright to 
be successful," displays her own conviction. In her novel that motto is reflected in Peterli 
who becomes the much beloved doctor of the poor, (and who even finds a suitable wife). 
She does not only have means of her own but is willing to share his life with the poor, 
"... although she . . . might have married a government official." 1 16 Even the crippled 
Mareili thrives in the light of that motto: Redeemed from living with strangers, she ends 
up the backbone of a doctor's household and "the little boys . . .obey her almost even 
more than father and mother." 117 The righteous are justly rewarded, as Peter sums up: 
"He [the Lord] has often given me an enormous amount of work, but he has never been 
meagre with me; he has given me strength and patience, much gratefulness and human 

1 1 X 

love, a peaceful home and children who turned out well." 

Georgine L tic kh off , a disciple of Jesus 

This belief was shared by my much beloved grandmother Georgine, born in 1876, 
who was widowed in her forties, with two adult stepchildren and two teenage girls of her 
own. She had married her own uncle, 26 years her senior, in order to prevent his children 
having to grow up with strangers after their mother's death. She lost the privileges of a 

Ibid., 127f [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 126 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 126 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 127 [translation mine]. 


director's wife (my grandfather had been the technical director of a mine), she who had 
been Professor Sauerbruch's partner at table, who was known to Victoria Luise, daughter 
of the last German emperor. My grandmother, who had danced in Berlin's hotel Adlon, 
was literally cast into the depths of a poor widow. My grandfather had stood surety with 
his remarkable property to an acquaintance, and had lost everything shortly before his 
death. But Georgine lived by her faith. While she never had received any formal 
education, she acted according to her abilities. She let some rooms to students from 
"good families." She taught girls how to run a household, she rented the rest of her rooms 
to impoverished people from the high aristocracy, and thereby endeavored to prevent a 
loss of social standards. 

For a woman of her time she acted highly unconventionally. Even when she was a 
"director's wife" she went to communists' meetings. She always sat in the last row, 
armed with an umbrella (in case of tumults). If she was asked why she went there at all, 
she answered that she wanted to be informed about their ideas. Later on, when she found 
herself behind the iron curtain, she made fun of the election system in the former GDR 
(which never provided a genuine choice), yet giving sandwiches to Soviet soldiers who 
passed her garden, because she found them malnourished. They, in a countermove, 
provided her with a letter in Russian (a language Georgine did not speak). This literally 
became her passport. Once, when she illegally crossed the border between the Soviet 
Zone and Western Germany to visit her two daughters in the West, she got caught and 
was imprisoned. In prison she remembered her letter and passed it to one of the 
commanders who cross-examined her. After reading the paper and inquiring about its 


whereabouts they set her free. When my totally perplexed grandmother asked to know 
about the text, they grinned and translated: "This old woman has been kind to us. Be kind 
to her." My grandmother saw God's guidance behind events like these and certainly not 
her own kindness. 

All her life long Georgine had to cope with precious little money, but she never 
gave anyone the idea of being poor. She might have been one of Wildermuth's figures. I 
shall never forget how on a Good Friday she read Christ's passion to us and had to stop, 
overwhelmed by her own weeping. It came to me like a shock to see my otherwise highly 
controlled and well-behaved grandmother (who would never display emotions of any 
kind) in such a state. Yet I shall remember her compassion and empathy for Christ's 
death for the rest of my life. For Georgine this Christ was not a figure from an old book, 
no, he was a living human being, suffering. Like Peterli she believed in the God of the 
poor who suffered with them and thereby set them free. 

In Georgine' s life God took first place and was above everything else. She 
believed that everybody had to do his or her duty, a belief she shared with Ottilie 
Wildermuth. But like Wildermuth's characters she showed sympathy with those who 
were unable to work and felt responsible for them. She fed beggars and hired a young 
woman( a mother of five children from a man she never wanted to marry). When my 
grandmother asked her why, she was given the astounding answer (much quoted in our 
family): "I find him too filthy for marrying." 

None of the female characters in Ottilie Wildermuth's novel can be called 
emancipated, nor was Ottilie herself emancipated. The same applies to my grandmother. 


Yet, although she spoke about women always having to take the road of subordination, 
she had freed herself from this for a certain amount of time. She never married again, 
although she remained a remarkably good looking woman all her life. She was excellent 
in running a household, but quite outspoken, a quality which does not recommend 
someone for marriage, even today. Wildermuth's motto "God enables the upright" could 
have been a motto for Georgine Caroline Ernestine, too - the poor woman who had to 
live with the feminized version of three male names. 

German Tracts for Children and Adolescents 

Helene Christaller Die kleine Jiingerin {The little Disciple) 


The twelve year old Marie Jung belongs to a poor laborer's family. After her 
mother's early death her father remarried, but the stepmother is overwrought and hardly 
finds a good word for the girl. She makes the girl work far too much at home, looking 
after her smaller siblings, and never encourages her. The same applies to the often 
uncontrolled teacher who does not even hesitate to beat her. So Marie's only solace is the 
Sunday school, run by the pastor's adult daughter. When she learns about the love of 
Jesus Christ to all humankind, she decides to become his disciple. After many hardships 
in her family she tries to rescue her little brother when the house is on fire, saves the little 
one, but dies herself of the consequences of her rescue action. 

The story belongs to a collection of Erzdhlungen fur unsere Jugend {Stories for 
our Youth), which have been issued under the title Christrosen by Bruno Mehmke. He 


himself is called the editor of the Jugendfreund {Friend of the Youth), of the Jugendkraft 
{Strength of the Youth), and of the Weckstimmen {Waking Calls). The topics of the 
various authors are clear: rescue from natural catastrophes by the grace of God; historical 
reports about education in former monasteries; being saved by a Christian hymn in times 
of trouble; critique on spoilt children or young future ladies-to-be; social grievances; and 
the mission in South Africa. None of the authors aspire to great literary achievements. It 
does not surprise, that they are are hardly read nowadays. But all of them deliver the 
same message: It is not anybody's station in life, nor his or her private circumstances, it is 
Christian discipleship that counts. 

Die kleine Jungerin 

When little Marie learns about Jesus, the one key question that dominates the 
short span of her life remains is: "What would Jesus have done?" This question lets her 
suppress her personal reaction towards day to day events. When her little brother has 
stolen the one and only piece of meat from her, because she is late from Sunday school, 
she suppresses her own hunger and abstains from the wish to hit her brother, because 
"Jesus would not have hit his little brother because of this. And then the sauerkraut tasted 
much better than before and a silent joy entered her heart about the fact that she had acted 
as Jesus would have done in her place." 1 19 The same miraculous transfiguration from 
anger to happiness takes place when she is asked to look after her teething little stepsister 
on the same Sunday afternoon, so that her stepmother can go into the village. Marie's 


first reactions are disappointment and bitterness, but again she asks: "Whether Jesus had 
acted that badly if he were to be in my position?" So she continues singing all the 
songs from Sunday School to the infant sister and when the evening bell tolls "never ever 
had the little girl [Marie] been as happy as today. . .and when the first evening star alit on 
the dusky sky it was to her as if the eye of her deceased mother looked from above, and 
she [Marie] said: 'How happy I am that today I was like Jesus would have been in my 
place."' 121 

This shameless exploitation of a human-made Jesus-construct is enriched with 
bible quotations, so for instance, when little Marie got her dress soiled by ink and the 
teacher is going to flog her, the twelve year old does not defend herself (by telling the 
teacher that her classmate Karl had kicked her, thus throwing the inkpot onto her dress), 
but takes comfort in the Messiah (Isaiah 53:5): "He was wounded for our transgressions," 
and offers the uncontrolled teacher her hands to be smacked. In the scene following the 
lashing, Karl, the agent of this misfortune, tells the teacher what really had happened. It 
does not occur to this teacher to apologize to Marie, whereas Karl asks to be given money 
to substitute the ruined dress. The boy does not ask for pardon by words but, in a highly 
evocative scene, hits himself. So the story's young readers are made familiar - if they did 
not know about it already - with the fact that smacking substitutes a proper dispute. To 
be whipped by the teacher, to be given the stick, was customary in my own primary 
school days and even at High School. My math teacher was famous for throwing chalk, 

Helene Christaller, Die kleine Jiingerin in Christrosen. Erzahlungen fur unsere Jugend ed. Bruno 
Mehmke (Stuttgart: Kommissions-Verlag von Holland & Josenhans, n. d.) Heft 82, 5 [translation mine]. 

Ibid., 6 [translation mine]. 
121 Ibid., 7 [translation mine]. 


bunches of keys and sometimes even ink pots. Everybody knew about this and certainly 
no adult would side with a child. The child was always at fault. In an exhibition about 
childhood experiences 1 940 - 1 960 in Essen the editor Mathilde Jamin speaks about this 
fact: "The reports of the male and female interview partners about their education 
indicate that post-war children often had to meet with insensitive parents, little 

1 77 

understanding, and great harshness, as well as with mental and bodily cruelty." One of 
the interview partners writes: "At school there was flogging; a [female] teacher boxed or 

1 7^ 

beat the back with a ruler. 'Then it was justified,' the parents remarked at home." 

The missionary child who is described in Elsli (Gritli 's Kinder), in Heidi {part 2) 
to a certain degree, as well as in little Marie, is a child who is denied her own wishes and 
emotions or worse - who will never know about their existence. This sort of child is a 
powerful instrument in the hands of adults. By making the missionary child an exemplary 
model for the education of girls, two goals are achieved at the same time: (1) patriarchy 
will be fortified, may it be in the appearance of a policeman-God, the father of the family 
or religious hierarchies. (2) The missionary little girl later on will become a wife, who is 
sure never to contradict, and always counts herself the last in the family, because the 
Jesus surrogate construct, used in these stories, certainly did the same. 

In her book Am Anfang war Erziehung (In the Beginning there was Education) 
the Swiss psychotherapist Alice Miller stresses, "how gladly teachers become the 

Mathilde Jamin, Frank Kerner, ed Maikdferflieg...Kindheitserinnerungen 1940-1960 (Bottrop- 
Essen: Ruhrlandmuseum Essen und Verlag Peter Pomp, 2001), 15 [translation mine]. 
123 Ibid., 148, K063 [K= Kindheit (childhood-object) Objekt]. 


successors of the fathers with regard to chastising the pupils and what profit they make to 
stabilise their own narcissistic ego," and that on the other hand "failure at school belongs 

I 7 J. 

to the few means one has to punish the teacher-father." How dangerous it will be to 
develop a personality which orients itself according to the neediness of parents or others 
in general, Alice Miller shows in The Drama of the Gifted Child: "The adaptation to 
parental needs often (but not always) leads to the development of a 'would-be- 
personality' or of that which D. Winnicott describes as a 'false self... The true self 
cannot develop and differentiate, because it can never be lived." 125 Both aspects are true 
for Marie. She shares her failure in mathematics with many girls, because mathematics 
was considered to be a typical male domain. To fail could mean to cry for help to the 
"united fathers". 

Marie's story ends with her own death. When it becomes apparent that her little 
brother Hans is still in the burning house, the story reports of the following dramatic 
dialogue in Marie's soul: 

'What would Jesus do?' it resounded in Marie's soul. 'No!' she cried aloud. .. 
Once again the question came pressing and serious: 'What would Jesus do?' 
The child clinched her hands on her heart in despair. To obey the voice - 
death, not to obey the voice - more than death; yes, worse, this she felt 
distinctly; this was a separation from Jesus, thereby she separated herself from 
Him. 'Oh, Jesus,' she said, trembling, 'I want to be yours until death.' 

To force a twelve year old child to such a decision is downright cruelty, especially 

when written in a children's story with the aim to influence children. The tale ends on an 

equally pompous note: "When Marie was buried ... she became a witness for the power of 

Alice Miller, Am Anfang war Erziehimg (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1980), 198 [translation 

Alice Miller. The Drama of the Gifted Child (Frankfurt/Main: 1979. Suhrkamp). 


Jesus over human hearts; her life was a blessing, but her death shook up people so that 
they asked: 'Who is that upon whose word even children go to death?' But on her grave 
there lies a stone...: Here rests a disciple of Jesus, faithful in life as in death." 

Substituting the girl's own wishes and perfectly justified human reactions by a 
highly conspicuous Jesus-construct raises numerous questions. How is it that this sort of 
"discipleship" seems to apply mainly to women and girls? When even until today the 
Roman Catholic Church rejects the priesthood of women with the argument that Jesus 
had had only male disciples, how is it possible that the question of suffering primarily 
seems to refer to women and girls? 

Marie's question: "What would Jesus do?" is echoed by a story by Chung Hyun 
Kyung to which Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza introduced me. In this story a Korean 
Sunday school teacher surrenders to the wishes of her highly aggressive husband by 
following the example of Jesus (who, after all, surrendered to his father's wishes, as 
well). The woman speaks of her old self as dying and a new self to be born. Schussler 
Fiorenza points to this example as a way of interpreting the bible in such a patriarchal 
way that it leads to self-alienation and what Schussler Fiorenza calls 'kyriarchal 
submission'. 128 By this she understands "the rule of the 

emperor/master/lord/father/husband over his subordinates." 129 The "self-alienated self 
Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and Alice Miller refer to and D. Winnicott's "false self are 

Helene Christaller, 1 1 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 12 [translation mine]. 

1 7R 

Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, "Gospel stories of Wo/men," notes from a Course at Harvard 
Divinity School, fall 2000. 


congruent. Both can only exist in a world which was (and is ) dominated by men who 
take an interest in the submission of women and girls. This submission is expressed in 
many church hymns about a "sweet Jesus" or a Jesus who, "meek and mild," should be 
an example to be followed.(This model, however, did not seem to exist for men.) They 
indicate that the church played and still plays an important role in establishing limitations 
for the work of women, their development and their expression of strength. 

In her essay "Dusting the Bible on the Floor: A Hermeneutics of Wisdom" Rita 

Nakashima Brock warns against the use of biblical stories as raw models for human 

behavior. For her the bible is more complex , as it speaks in several voices from different 

points of view. Humans contribute their own social background, the stories of their 

ancestors, their personal experiences: 

The desire to make Jesus a raw model shares the same limitations. When Jesus 
becomes the model for human behavior, we must ask, "What would Jesus do 
in this situation?" This question leads us away from the complexities of our own 
experiences and feelings, which compel us to ask, "How do I feel now; how are 
others feeling; and what can I do to lessen pain and suffering and empower 
survival, justice, and wholeness?" The whole-making power of a story comes 
through its ability to mirror and therefore heighten our sense of reality. A story 
provides resonances, images for understanding the ambiguities and struggles for 
our own lives... 1 

To Brock the main goal should be to acquire wisdom: "The more we search for 

heroes and guidelines, the more we are interested in controlling behavior, rather than 

discovering insight, opening dialogue, and empowering wisdom." 131 

Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam 's Child, Sophia 's Prophet: Critical Issues in Feminist 
Christology (New York: Continuum, 1999), 14. 


Again my grandmother is a good example for a female development which might 
have ended in authenticity but in reality provided a new bondage. Her once forceful faith 
changed into a more and more strict observation of Christian doctrines. She became the 
only worldly visitor who permanently lived in a home for deaconesses. Her life had 
practically become that of a religious. But instead of being liberated she was infected by 
the very narrow way the deaconesses observed. She criticised anything 'worldly' just as 
she watched the deaconesses doing it. On one of our rare visits - it was difficult to obtain 
a visitor's permission for the Soviet Zone and the later GDR - 1 remember that the fact I 
wore lipstick and make-up, as well as a short skirt (it was the time of Mary Quant's mini- 
skirts), seemed to be a genuine challenge for both the deaconesses and my grandmother. 
Anything that could be interpreted as "fun" or "worldly" happiness was strictly opposed. 
Unfortunately I could not discern a feeling of solidarity among the women themselves. 
When near the end of her life my grandmother lost her memory, they interpreted this fact 
by telling my shocked mother that it was God's punishment for my grandmother's once 
having been "Frau Direktor" (a director's wife). And to make matters worse, they pointed 
to one of their own deaconesses of similar age who died with a clear mind, a model of 
what they called "an end agreeable to God." 

I don't want to belittle the difficulties these deaconesses had to meet with under a 
Soviet regime or a government guided by Soviet principles. But this had not brought 
about their solidarity as women. They still observed the old hierarchies: church versus lay 

Rita Nakashima Brock, "Dusting the Bible on the Floor: A Hermeneutics of Wisdom," in 
Searching the Scriptures. A Feminist Introduction ed. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza (New York: Crossroad 
Herder, 1993), 72. 
131 Ibid., 72f. 


persons; those elected by God versus those who had to undergo a minor purgatory in 
order to subdue their worldly habits, even though they may have endeavored to lead 
model lives themselves. 

The missionary children Elsli and Heidi, the little disciple [of Jesus], Marie, using 
them as models perpetuated an education of girls which led towards the subordination 
under the wishes and ideas of others. Suffering again is the lot of (mainly) women and is 
not questioned in its European background. The great model is the suffering but loving 
Jesus. Girls and women in particular are caught in the old love trap. Their yearning for 
love let them take St. Paul's words: [love] "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all 
things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 10:7) as an iron law. We shall take a deeper look 
into the construct of suffering and love in the next chapter. 




Eros, n [Gk eros sexual love]: 2b: aspiring self-fulfilling love often having sensuous quality 

silly, adj la: needing compassion or sympathy: PATHETIC 3b: exhibiting a lack of judgment 
or intelligence: FOOLISH, INANE, VACUOUS 

In the first part of this chapter I shall trace some of the roots for the upbringing 


of women and girls, in particular, focusing on the 19 century in Germany. I shall 
contrast Luise, Queen of Prussia, the great icon for females at that time, with Rahel 
Levin, who as a woman ran one of the first salons in the intellectual society of Berlin. 


I shall show that economic security will be the topic for women of the 19 
century and show this by the examples of Heidi and Johanna Spyri's niece Emily 
Kempin-Spyri. I shall give a look into the lives of farmers' wives and their daughters, 
compared to those belonging to the proletariat and will end with a cursory glance at 
today's Germany. 

In a second part I shall analyze the Silly Teenagers ' Stories, starting with 
Clementine Helm's Backfischchens Freuden und Leiden. 

I shall look at the topic of the Poor Damsel in Distress and illustrate it by 
means of a "legend" I wrote myself. I will try to find some answers to the question 
why even nowadays some women seem to be unable to leave the old pattern of 
domestication and how they could be helped by the insight women of color have to 

The second teenager book I analyze will be the great success story of Emmy 
von Rhoden's Der Trotzkopf. Again, the topic is domestication. Henny Koch's Papas 


Junge is the third book in this series of Silly Teenagers ' Stories. I shall contrast all the 
three novels and question their message. 

Eros and Sexuality in Nineteenth Century Germany 

According to one of the most widely used German dictionaries for religion, 
Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (RGG), Eros denotes "a Greek term . . . which 
is translated by the term love. . . For Plato the term eros, as 'Divine Eros,' has become 
the main term for a view, according to which it is the main duty of humankind to free 
the soul from the ties of sensuousness in order to transport it towards a supra- 
sensuous, divine world." 1 Wahrig's Deutsches Worterbuch, an etymological 
dictionary of the German language, gives two definitions: "sensuous love; 
(philosophical) drive for knowledge and creative, spiritual work." 2 1 intend to use the 
word according to Wahrig's first definition and not in the narrow and refined sense of 
the RGG definition. 

German nineteenth century history is very much coined by the French 
Revolution, a revolution that inspired with great hope the many small fiefdoms, 
principalities and kingdoms of the German nation prior to its first unification, in 1872. 
Their hopes and expectations, however, were never fulfilled. There had to be a 
"German Revolution," 1848 - 49, which "reached the population. . . in the smallest 
village community... It impressed those who reigned... by its solidarity, uniformity, 

Hans. Frhr. von Campenhausen et al., ed., Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart. 
Handworterbuch fur Theologie und Religionswissenschafi, (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1986), 603 
[translation mine]. 

Gerhard Wahrig, Deutsches Worterbuch, (Giitersloh: Mosaik Verlag, 1985), 1 168 
[translatio mine]. 


and dynamism." 3 The ensuing epoch of reactionary policies, however, has convinced 
quite a number of historians that this revolution failed. Nevertheless, both the ideas of 
the French Revolution as well as the Revolution of 1 848/49 had become fully 
established thoughts in the minds of the upper bourgeoisie. 

With a fragmented German nation for a long period of time consisting of 
numerous small states, with a population that, at times, was still considered to be 
made up of immature citizens by the leading authorities, I can only investigate the 
question of Eros and Sexuality with regard to particular groups. Among those groups, 
I intend to focus especially on women and girls. Since the state system with its social 
class distinctions was still in use, I will examine the position of women of aristocracy, 
the bourgeoisie, farmers, and working classes with regard to Eros and Sexuality, 
although with different emphases. I shall also focus on the role of the church in 
maintaining the prevalent class structure ands social expectations. Finally I am going 
to pose the question whether there was any form of liberation for women in those 

The great icon of female Eros in the nineteenth century was Queen Luise of 
Prussia. Apart from this she became an example of every possible virtue. She 
remained a standard for her own class and for members of all other classes alike. 
People regarded her as a beautiful, natural, vivid woman that brushed away etiquette 
and preferred affection to class distinction. Luise was known as a Queen of Hearts 

Wolfgang Siemann, Die deutsche Revolution von 1848/49. Lizenzausgabe fur die 
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1997), 17 [translation mine]. 


Josef Grassi (1758-1838): Konigin Luise. 

Queen Luise of Prussia. 

Stiftung PreuBische Schlosser und Garten Berhn-Brandenburg, 

SchloB Charlottenburg 

long before Princess Diana of Wales was born. Poets praised her virtues. The key poet 
of German Romanticism, Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg), wrote an essay about 
Faith and Love Or the King and the Queen praising her, and novelist Jean Paul 
dedicated his work Titan to her. 

Although born in 1 776 her reputation still extends into the twentieth century. 
To visit the monument to the dead queen, who died at the age of 34 years of a lung 
condition and a heart defect, was obligatory for thousands of young women. And 
when in 1958 my class visited Berlin, we certainly paid our respect to her monument 
in the park of Charlottenburg Palace. In 2002 it was President George W. Bush's wife 
Laura who paid her homage to this monument. Comparable to the late Princess Diana, 
Queen Luise's youthful death was part of her myth, but more so it was the way she 
had lived. 

Luise had been born in Hannover (Northern Germany) which at that time was 
ruled in personal union with Britain. Her father was a governor of the city. At the age 
of 1 7 an arranged meeting had taken place with the Prussian Crown Prince, another 
similarity she shares with Princess Diana. But here all similarities cease. Both Luise 
and (the later) king Friedrich Wilhelm III fell in love and were married on Christmas 
Eve 1793. Two days later her younger sister Friederike followed suit, marrying 
Friedrich Wilhelm' s unloved brother Ludwig. Both young women were unusual, 
beautiful, natural, of a happy disposition. But Friederike was supposed to be more 
attractive than her sister, who was seen as an example of virtuous behavior. When 
Friederike was widowed at the age of 18, she had love affairs and when, according to 
the prevailing rules of etiquette, she entered an imprudent marriage, she was forced to 


Joh. Gottfried Schadow (1764-1850): 
Doppclstandbild derPrinzessinnen 
Luise und Friederike von PreuBen 
Double Statue of the Princesses 
Luise and Friederike of Prussia 
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin- 
PreuBischer Kulturbesitz 

leave the Prussian court and was only entitled to return after another period of 
widowhood and her third marriage, making her Queen of Hannover. In their 
respective attitudes both sisters personified the social codes of their times, codes that 
reached beyond their own times into later centuries. The older sister Luise became the 
standard for an excellent wife. Her attraction was that of a mild and non-sensuous 
classicism. By marrying she left behind the once spontaneous girl with her a passion 
for dancing. Her sister, however, maintained all these qualities and so became the 
object of desire at a court where her husband still continued to live his former 
bachelor-life, including his sexual preferences, and showed little interest in her. She 
was forced to leave these surroundings when acting against the ruling etiquette, even 
though her sister was consort to a reigning king. 

To marry because of love was something very rare in the circles of the high 
aristocracy of that time (as it seems to be even today). The mutual love of a couple of 
such high ranking added much to the construction of Queen-Luise-myths of later 
times. This queen was not only amiable and graceful, she also had a strong sense of 
duty. Married to a king who hated his father's voluptuous and pompous life-style, that 
included countless sexual affairs and reckless squandering, Luise became an example 
of Prussian virtues. She was thrifty, God-fearing, faithful to husband and God. She 
gave birth to children who, contrary to other houses of the high aristocracy, were not 
given away to nursemaids and nannies. Rather, she and her husband lived the life of 
citizens; they both delighted in their children. Luise was to become the mother of a 
nation, "mother of Prussia" when she met Napoleon who was adding a string of 
German vassal nations to his empire, and who hated and deeply humiliated her. She 


wrote to him: "Sire, I am a wife and a mother, and both these features let me 
recommend Prussia's fate to you... I apply to your noble heart, and expect happiness 
from your majesty." 4 The historian Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann justly emphasizes: 
"This naive letter corresponds with the woman's ideal of motherliness and at the same 
time virginal innocence, a life totally overshadowed by the male, in the security and 
restriction of her home." 5 

Although it was Luise who had once advocated a treaty with Napoleon's 
enemy Russia and had convinced her hesitating husband to wage war against the 
French emperor, her myth did suppress this trace — something probably regarded 
inappropriate for a woman — and transformed her into a mythical sufferer. A number 
of German films devoted themselves to this topic. When I was a school girl, a new 
Queen Luise drama brought to the screen queen: Luise fleeing Napoleon with her 
children. Its title, Queen Luise. Love and Suffering of a Queen underpins the two 
prevalent topics, even as late as 1957. 

But the epitome of the Luise-myth may be what Giinter de Bruyn called "The 
Prussian Madonna" 6 : "Even Schleiermacher had emphasized in his euloguy on the 
death of Luise that the queen had never crossed those borders which 'are set by the 
difference of the genders'. Her effectiveness had been a quietude of her mind. She had 
given happiness to the king and the royal children by supporting them in their 

Anonymous, Grofie Frauen der Weltgeschichte (Wiesbaden: n.p., n.d.), 302 [translation 

Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann, Frauenleben im 19. Jahrhundert. Empire und Romantik, 
Biedermeier, Griinderzeit (Munchen: Beck, 1988), 16 [translation mine]. 


Iff • : Jm 


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Johann Heinrich Schroder (1796): 

Luise Kronprinzessin von PreuBen 

mit ihrem Sohn Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm (IV.) 

Crown Princess Luise of Prussia with her 

son Prince Friedrich Wilhelm (IV.) 

["The Prussian Madonna"] 

Schlofimuseum Gotha 


domestic realm, by soothing and cheering them." 7 Here is no word about her 
breaching etiquette from time to time by embracing or greeting persons of lower 
ranks, or by shedding tears in public. Here she is fully established in a female role — 
the great sufferer, the supporting wife, the encouraging mother, the cheerful creature 
who never thinks of herself. 

Most essentially, however, remained the fact that she had given birth to the 
later Kaiser, emperor Wilhelm I. In contemporary iconography she was presented as 
the mother of important children, a later king and a later emperor. One of them was 
"painted as early as 1796 in imitation of Rafael's Madonna del la Sedia ... with her 
oldest son in her arms." 8 This was the Luise who was to become an exemplar for 
generations of German girls and young mothers. The almost prophetic words 
preached at her wedding by court chaplain Sack had been fulfilled: "[It is] your 
beautiful profession ... to kindle the gentle flame of tender emotions [in your husband] 
which mellows the horror of heroic virtues and, as it is love in itself, will engender 
love. The Prince for whom you vow to live, expects what dignity and power cannot 
give him, that is the sacred happiness of friendship — and a new, shining exemplar 
both court and country expect from you." 9 Heroic virtues were for the prince, tender 
emotions for the bride and the function of an exemplar-to-be. There was nothing for 
herself, but everything in response to her husband or, later on, with regard to her 

Gtinter de Bruyn, Preussens Luise. Vom Entstehen und Vergehen einer Legende (Berlin: 
Siedler Verlag, 2001), 7 If. [translation mine]. 

Ibid. 71 [translation mine]. 

Ibid., 76 [translation mine]. 


De Bruyn, 27 [translation mine]. 



Peter Friedel (1800): PasteU der 

Rahel Levin alias Friederike Varnhagen von Ense 

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin -PreuBischer Kulturbesiti 


children and her future sons in particular. No passion was sought after but a gentle 
flame, sacred friendship instead of love or, if love, a love which is chaste (agape) and 
not linked with anything as dangerous as ardor. So she became Mother and Madonna, 
the fulfilment of many male dreams. This was indeed to become a model for many 
girls and women of the nineteenth century and beyond. 

Five years before the birth of Queen Luise of Prussia, Rahel Levin, later 
Friederike Varnhagen von Ense, was born in Berlin. She was to become the most 
famous intellectual woman of her age, and in her literary salon assembled many 
important intellectuals of her time. Contrary to Queen Luise she was supposed to be 
neither beautiful, nor could she claim a noble birth. Quite the reverse, she was the 
oldest child of a Jewish businessman and banker. When her father died in 1790 she 
had no means of her own but was dependent on her brothers. Highly intelligent, she 
visited the lectures of August Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin (1802) and, five years later, 
Ludwig Fichte's famous Addresses to the German Nation. She initially tried to 
overcome her Jewish heritage by assimilation, but soon found out that she could not 
cope with representing somebody else or, as Hannah Arendt, a Jew and German 
herself, puts it in her biography of Rahel Levin: "The omnipotence of opinion and of 
lie has its limit . . . one cannot transform one's face; neither intelligence nor freedom, 
neither lie nor disgust nor weariness help leaving one's own skin." 10 The only way to 
escape the constrictions of her class was by marriage. In 1796 she fell in love with 
Karl Count of Finckenstein, an affair which lasted for nearly four years. She separated 


from him, because he could not comprehend her and, instead, fled back into the safe 
boundaries of his social class. In 1802 Rahel Levin fell in love with the Spanish 
legation secretary Don Raphael d'Urquijo. As a foreigner the fact that she was a Jew 
seemed not to matter. She wrote ardent love letters to him, speaking of eternal love, "a 
gift from heaven," the "strongest enchantment possible," "the incredible God-sent to 
show her soul." But d'Urquijo was not interested in either her soul or her boundless 
love. "Above all, it is not appropriate for a woman to love a man so much more than 
he loves herself."" Again she broke away. But, unlike other women, she had her 
salon. The journalist Carola Stern comments: "At Rahel Levin's the best and brightest 
of society assembled; this was not the good society, neither in the aristocratic nor in 
the bourgeois sense of the word." 12 Even Prussian Prince Louis Ferdinand was among 
the guests and played the piano for her. But she could not establish that sort of 
rapport. Again she tried to forge a relationship, this time with Friedrich Gentz, a 
womanizer of some notoriety. Both of them created a new form of understanding. 
With him she established roles; he suggested role-plays, "she the mother, he the child, 
he the old man, she the catamite." 13 But he was to betray her, as well. 

In 1808, Rahel, then nearly forty, met a man fourteen years her junior, Karl 
August Varnhagen. He was the first man who saw her isolation and her deep inner 
loneliness. He was certainly not her equal in terms of intelligence; she, however, was 
looked at as an old maid with a number of affairs, humiliated, escaping into sickness. 

Hannah Arendt, Rahel Varnhagen. Lebensgeschichte einer deutschen Jiidin aus der Romantik 
(Munchen: Piper, 1998), 27 [translation mine]. 

Ibid., 104 f [translation mine]. 


Carola Stern, Der Text meines Herzens. Das Leben der Rahel Varnhagen (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 
1997), 88 [translation mine]. 


It is the "small" love which Rahel Levin described: "There are many interim-forms of 
happiness, one has to use them as they are." 14 So she married the young man and lived 
with him until her death in 1833. 

Both women, the Prussian Christian Queen Luise and the Jewish Rahel Levin, 
were exceptional women, and to me it is not surprising that they lived their unusual 
lives in the first half of the nineteenth century because the ideas of the French 
Revolution were still prevalent. But whereas Luise "would throw away all books in 
order to maintain her sensibility. . .May God prevent me from caring for my reason 
and neglecting my heart;" 15 knowledge was a natural desire for Rahel — although the 
cost she was to pay for being admitted to society was immense. She had to convert to 
the Christian faith in order to become the wife of a civil servant, and "as she neither 
wanted to be a fool nor a paradox, she left it to Varnhagen to really make her Mrs. 
Friederike Varnhagen von Ense, to extinguish her existence up to her first name." 16 

Rahel Levin's particularity consisted in the fact that she attracted people as 
diverse as Goethe and Heinrich Heine; both Jews and Christians, both aristocracy and 
bourgeoisie. But she became assimilated where, perhaps, she might have identified 

Ibid., 93 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 143 [translation mine]. 
De Bruyn, 43 [translation mine]. 
Arendt, 219 [translation mine]. 


herself with other non-privileged people: "Economic security formed the main base of 
her sole, driven life." 17 

I shall encounter this dilemma again in the so-called Silly Teenagers ' Stories 
of the second half of her century and in children's books like Heidi. The strange fact 
that Heidi's grandfather does not care for her further education after her return from 
Frankfurt but, rather, shows delight when the Frankfurt doctor proposes to let Heidi 
inherit his property but insists on her nursing him in his old age, can be explained in 
terms of the same dilemma. Economic security was the base for marriages in all 
classes of society of this century, a feature which reaches unto this century as well. 
And the rights for women had changed: "The Middle Ages justified a woman to 
appear before the court of law even in cases against her own husband. With the 
Prussian country law it was a step back to the proto-Germanic times where a woman 
only changed from one guardianship to another and in theory was not responsible for 
herself. . .making her husband her appointed guardian." 18 Under these circumstances 
there is little room for Eros and Sexuality, based on a partnership of equals. 

Once more, Spyri's Heidi illustrates this fact well: There is not a single hint of 
any sort of love, let alone an erotic attachment. Heidi's world is populated by 
bachelors and spinsters, widows and widowers. This clear lack of eroticism of any 
kind led to a peculiar "appendix" of Heidi in English-speaking countries and in 

Ibid., 188 [translation mine]. 


Barbara Beuys, Familienleben in Deutschland. Neue Bilder aus der deutschen Vergangenheit 
(Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1980), 339 [translation mine]. 


France: One of Spyri's translators, the Swiss Charles Tritten, wrote two continuations 
of Spyri's Heidi: Heidi Grows Up and Heidi 's Children. 19 There are two interesting 
features: Tritten compensates what is lacking in Spyri's second half of Heidi, namely 
its want of education and eroticism. So he sends the girl Heidi to exactly that sort of 
finishing school described in the Silly Teenagers ' Stories. He makes her marry 
goatherd Peter and lets her have two children. The second interesting feature consists 
in the fact that these books are known in France, but not in German-speaking 
countries. On the other hand they are widely published in English-speaking countries, 
even as far as Australia. Tritten makes use of his inside knowledge as a translator: 
"Was it prophetic, perhaps, that the last chapter of Heidi should have been entitled 
'Parting to Meet Again'? Now, years afterwards ... the curtain rolled back and we do 
meet again the little girl...", but at the same time is praised by the unnamed author of 
the foreword "for his [Tritten' s] simplicity and understanding of young children 
embarked upon the breathless adventure of growing up." 20 Another book, again from 
the USA, is based upon the script of Fred and Mark Brogger's movie "Courage 
Mountain," a serial of Heidi describing her adolescence in an Italian finishing school 
with extremely melodramatic events. Again she will marry goatherd Peter, this time a 
brave young soldier. 

The "breathless adventure of growing up" was unknown for Spyri, although 
she was reported to have traits of thinking independently and was also accused of 
social maladjustment: "Still Mrs. Town Clerk (her husband had been made town clerk 
of Zurich) has this temperament which grudgingly bows to considerations of 

Charles Tritten, Heidi Grows Up/ Heidi's Children (Hungary, n. p.: W.M. Collins, 1981). 


society." 21 But this might have its reasons in the fact that she was perhaps not that 
much familiar with the "grand world" as for example Reiner Zerbst sees her: "Since 
then [the second edition of Heidi] she leads a thoroughly mundane life by going on 
vacation in Montreux. This, too, opposes the portrait of the author as a godfearing, 
pietist, who is a wrapt in her thoughts woman of the 19 th century." 22 When I visited 
the Schweizerisches Jugendbuch Institut Dr. Verena Rutschmann told me that 
Johanna Spyri had had some emancipatory attempts. So she had left the pietist revival 
movement, had become a member of the supervisory board of the Zurich High School 
for girls, and in the last years of her life had attended a female doctor. Yet, she was 
unable to detect the incredible academic gifts of her own niece, Emily, and was totally 
incapable of supporting this young woman either intellectually or financially. Emily 
Kempin-Spyri was to be the first woman in Europe to graduate in law, but was neither 
permitted to act as an attorney nor to become a professor herself. So she left 
Switzerland with her family for America in 1888. Although the "Women's Legal 
Education Society" in the USA "called her lectures a landmark: The first modern 
instance of a woman lecturing on law to classes of young men," 23 Emily failed 
because of a permanent lack of money, because of a family who was overstraining her 
continually, and because of a pastor-father who disinherited her as he was totally 
against her plans of marrying someone inferior to her family. She died in 1901, aged 
48, in a lunatic asylum in Basel where she is still unknown even 90 years later. 


Charles Tritten. Heidi Grows Up, 13. 

21 Eveline Hasler, Die Wachsflugelfrau (Munchen: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995), 101 

[translation mine]. 


Reiner Zerbst,"Heidi macht Urlaub in 1 
23 Eveline Hasler, 186 [translation mine]. 

[translation mine]. 

Reiner Zerbst,"Heidi macht Urlaub in Montreux" in Zeitzeichen 7/2001, 49 [translation mine]. 


Despite her education Emily Kempin-Spyri in a way embodies the many 
female lives in the 19 th century including those which had no possibility to gain any 
education, achieve a station in life beyond that of a housewife, or make decisions of 
their own. 

Spyri's educational example in Heidi comprises the experience of countless 
women in the nineteenth century. As Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann makes clear, it was 
dangerous to grow up: "Girls, frequently aged only 16-17 were married to men often 
twice their age in a 'safe position', and their naive childlikeness established their 
special attraction ...Because of such an unpretentious childlikeness, because of a 
staging of life which happily and almost infantile changed into the married stage, no 
learning was necessary and was not missed either." 24 

For J. C. Bluntschli, (1808-1883), a Swiss lawyer, a witness to the attitudes of 

the times, the woman he could love ought to have the following features: 

She seemed to me like the living ideal of femininity. Intellectual women 
who competed with men were inappropriate to me. But in her I found the 
the noblest traces of the spirit, a quick and clear reason, deep understanding 
a fine moral feeling mixed with loveliest grace, gentleness and mildness.Webe 
She was a faithful, caring wife, a good mother, a friend of the poor, ready 
to sacrifice herself, a housewife without pretension and a friendly and 
serene hostess. In her presence I felt elevated and purer... On no account I 
would like to have a wife who would be superior to me with regard to her 
intellect... The sharpness and strength of intellect will be a priority of men in 
eternity. There will always be a certain weakness in their [i.e. women's] 
intellect. Nevertheless women will always excel us by their delicate under- 
standing and fine feelings. 25 



Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann, 56 [translation mine]. 

J. C. Bluntschli, Denkwiirdigkeiten aus meinem Leben (Nordlingen: n.p., 1884), 156, quoted 
after Weber-Kellermann, 52 [translation mine]. 


Again the roles are clearly defined, sharpness and strength of intellect for men, 

understanding and feelings for women; and on no account passionate emotions, rather 

someone who is ready to sacrifice herself 'similar to the Prussian Madonna is sought 


This catalogue strangely resembles that of Queen Luise of Prussia: grace, 

gentleness, mildness instead of passion and ardor, a caring wife, a good mother, ready 

to sacrifice herself but with a certain weakness of intellect. It is the portrait of the 

"safe" woman, someone who will support her husband, never compete with him, 

someone who is satisfied to be put off with the praise of her delicate understanding 

and fine feelings, which becomes a trap in itself. If she wants to decide on her own, 

act according to her personal feelings and wishes, then her understanding will be 

lacking and is no longer delicate and fine. So it is best that she remains in the childlike 

state of her bridehood with no sexual enlightenment and an education just enough to 

support her duties as a graceful hostess, thus enhancing her husband's glamor. 

Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann is fully justified in commenting: "... the defenselessness 

of women, [is characterized by the effortless manner] with which they went from their 

father's hand or that of an educational institute, into that of a husband, without ever 

having achieved their own personal development." 26 Marriage in itself was the main 

goal and 

if they had achieved a contract of marriage a failure of this attempt 
was not supposed to take place. Therefore the attitude of devotion that many 
women had and their great strength in enduring sometimes even intolerable 
and humiliating conditions, particularly outwardly the impression of a 
happy marriage. . .had to be kept. . .This often was succeeded only by the 
women's silence... thus increasing their incapability to formulate personal 


Hildegard Weber-Kellermann, 97 [translation mine]. 


matters and speak about them at all. Those continued repressed processes 
lead to neurosis and hysteria, the family related origins of which Sigmund 
Freud (1856-1939) discovered at the end of the century. 27 

Divorce was something stigmatizing and in general it ruined the women 
socially. The German portraitist of nineteenth century society, the poet Theodor 
Fontane (1819-1898), described divorce in a number of his novels. Not all the women 
he depicted were as "lucky" as the Stechlin 's countess Melusine, sent on her 
honeymoon to Italy without any sexual education and, after passing the Apennine 
tunnel, would remark "I knew which misery I lived for in future." 28 Her divorce 
neither separated her from her family nor her class in general. How cruel this must 
have been for young women is depicted in Fontane' s famous Effi Briest. Effi is 
married to an old suitor of her mother, and out of complete boredom and neglect runs 
into an affair and ends up paying for this long-forgotten story when her husband 
discovers the love letters of bygone times. When Effi is divorced, she is not even 
allowed to see her family anymore. Only when she is at the point of dying, her father 
pleads for her return, speaking of "parental love" to a wife for whom "catechism, 
morals and claims of society" have first priority: "It is very difficult to live without 
society" — "As it is to live without child," retorts her husband. 29 

As seen above, Rahel Levin had escaped into illness when she felt the effects 
of unrequited love and lack of social acceptance. Queen Luise was able to fall back on 


Ibid., 98 [translation mine]. 


Theodor Fontane, Der Stechlin vol. 4 (Mtinchen: Hanser, 1982), 394 [translation mine]. 


Theodor Fontane, Effi Briest vol. 3 (Miinchen: Hanser, 1982) 705 [translation mine]. 


the love of her husband and her subjects. But even she had to live according to the 
strict rules of a patriarchal time. Neither Rahel nor Luise had to work for their living. 
Despite frugality they belonged to privileged classes. What possibilities were there for 
girls and women from other classes of society such as farmers or the working classes? 
How did eros and sexuality affect them? Did they have any choice, were they enabled 
to make decisions of their own? 

Similar to aristocracy, as late as the twentieth century in Germany, marriages 
between farmers were often arranged marriages. Eros and sexuality were subordinated 
to claims of prudence and profit. In certain regions, like for example Bavaria, the 
proof of the woman's fertility played an important role. Marriages where the bride 
was already pregnant were no exception from the rule or stigmatizing, and virginity 
did not play the same role as it did in the upper classes. The parents of young farmers 
arranged their sons' or daughters' marriages either through their own families or 
friends, or with the help of marriage brokers. The prospective bride had to be healthy 
- in order to be a good laborer and child-bearer - as well as to be well-off. The 
question of beauty was of little importance. As farmers' daughters or working class 
young women did not write diaries in general (unlike those from the bourgeoisie class 
or aristocracy) there are, alas, only scarce personal documents to reflect on this. 

When a wedding took place, the bride would have arrived with a carriage 
containing her dowry. She was also expected to have some extra money to support 
herself. The act of consummation of matrimony was almost a public act and left little 
room for Eros, tender feelings or great emotions. But contrary to women of the 


aristocracy or those of the bourgeoisie, farmers' wives had a certain scope of duties. 
They were responsible for a functioning household as well as particular tasks like the 
rearing of and providing for animals. At harvest they supported their husbands, and 
their life was not marked by boredom or inactivity as that of the women of higher 
classes; indeed, any "escape" into illness was unheard of. Their lives were not easy, 
because they had to work hard. The poorer the farm, the more was expected of the 
farmers' wife. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the industrial revolution had 

changed the working process and effectiveness of many small farms. Quite a number 

of them had to give up. Some of the former farmers tried to find an occupation in the 

big towns, in the hope for a better future. The fate of many of these small farmers 

were to form the roots of a large proletariat, bringing with it substantial poverty and 

incredible misery. This was the time when women and children worked, for instance 

as miners; often for 10-14 hours a day, merely to survive. There was no room for 

Eros. A Belgian insight holds true regarding to the conditions in German mines, too: 

The mine is a school of immorality for women; young girls of 14 to 20 years 
are in continual contact with men and lads, the consequence of which are 
scandalizing scenes. The immoral attitudes are so deeply rooted with women 
who work in mines that it is impossible for them to get rid of them. Therefore 
the great number of unhappy marriages in this country... The poor girls who 
work in mines are hardly 1 5 years old and already lost. 30 

Here again it is only the women who are made responsible for the so-called 

immorality. These women and girls had neither choice nor possibilities for ruling their 


Herbert Gutschera et al., Brermpunkte der Kirchengeschichte (Paderborn: Schoningh, 1976), 
197 f. [translation and italics mine]. 


own lives. They had neither education, money, nor any prospect of ever changing 
their status. On the contrary, the church played an important role to keep them in their 
respective places, to keep them "modest" which, in the end, meant to restrict them to 
their classes. According to the church the class system had been provided for 
everybody by God. So the very idea of change was already against the God-given 
order. 31 

A cookbook of 1881 starts with the admonition of a pastor. He tells the 
working-class woman that she alone will be responsible for the happiness of her 
marriage. He recommends attending the service every Sunday and tells her "to endure 
the faults of her husband patiently, even his visiting of inns, and it advises her to get 
more peaceful and lenient. " n 

Even here, under these gross circumstances, there is no word of solidarity or 
compassion, but again the emphasis on the role of the sufferer which I had pointed to 
in the catalogue of Queen Luise's virtues at the beginning of the nineteenth century. 
The claim for women's behavior as the 'sole source of responsibility for a happy 
marriage' speaks for itself. How anyone who had to cope with famine, impossible 
conditions of housing — in many urban flats two families had to live together to save 
cost, some of them sharing even one room (which had been 'separated' by a chalk 
mark on the floor) — how anyone could develop peacefulness and leniency under 
these circumstances is hard to understand, particularly when the man giving the 
advice himself belonged to the ruling classes: "Pastors frequently belonged to the 

31 Ibid., 199. 


Her. von einer Commission des Verbandes „Arbeiterwohl", Das hdusliche Gltick (Leipzig: 
Riffarth, 1882). Quoted after Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann, 191 [translation and italics mine]. 


ruling classes and partly were dependent on them." 33 The historian Hans-Ulrich 

Wehler justly emphasizes that 

[i]n the din of theological -political disputes most of them [the pastors] did not 
perceive that at the same time the church [the Protestant Church] remained 
blind to the immense social consequences of the entire social process of 
transformation so that it failed on all accounts. . .to care for the immense army 
of the impoverished lower classes. 34 

Karl Marx's view of religion as the opium of the people echoes true in a century 
where the church supported the suffering role of women instead of addressing the 
cause of this enormous poverty and injustice. The reason why this question was never 
addressed was, inter alia due to the prevailing pietist movement, led by theologian 
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg. Hengstenberg encouraged clerical and aristocratic 
conservatives to believe in "a God-given opposition against every ecclesiastic and 
political liberalization." 35 On the basis of this, one of the most important members of 
this movement, Adolf von Thadden-Trieglaff, was able to define the divine 
commandment of loving one's neighbor by the interesting interpretation that "to serve 
one's neighbor in true love first of all required maintaining the successful custom of 
ruling over him." 36 On the other hand it is von Thadden-Trieglaff who in connection 
with his daughter Elisabeth was to initiate the so-called "Trieglaffer Konferenzen" 
(Trieglaff conferences) from 1918 on. Here democratic leaders and personalities from 
the Protestant Church meet together with representatives of the National Liberals and 


Herbert Gutschera, Brennpunkte, 199 [translaton mine]. 

Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Deutsche Gesellschqftsgeschichte 1815-1845/49 vol. 2 (Munchen: Beck, 
1987), 459 [translation mine]. 


Ibid., vol. 2, 464 [translation mine]. 
Hans-Ulrich Wehler, 465 [translation mine]. 


the Social Democrats. It was to be this daughter Elisabeth von Thadden who was 
deeply convinced that "we are culprits of the social need." 37 So she founded a country 
boarding school for girls in 1927, the goals of which were to teach the girls "a clear 
evangelical awareness," an "education in order to achieve a Christian consciousness 
according to the gospels." 38 This daughter of a very conservative member of 
Germany's high aristocracy had to pay with her life for these convictions. She was 
guillotined by the Nazis in 1944 in Berlin-Plotzensee. Her High School in Heidelberg, 
now a school for co-education, still exists. At my time of teaching there, it fulfilled all 
my ideas about what a Protestant High School should be, namely a place where 
academic and spiritual education was equally important, where multiculturalism 
found its place, where pupils and teachers were united in a mutual learning process of 

The great social shifts in nineteenth century society, the division of a whole 
nation into rich (mostly aristocracy and the bourgeoisie), and those below poverty 
(small farmers and the working population), influenced the expressions of Eros and 
Sexuality in significant ways. On the one hand there existed a libertine upper class 
and, on the other end of the spectrum, the insistence on marrying virginal girls with 
no sexual experience at all was the accepted norm. And then there were the great 
physical needs of the proletariat, forcing women into some form of slave labor or 
even prostitution in order to survive. The century saw great women like Queen Luise, 


Walther Kummerow, in Elisabeth-von-Thadden-Schule. Annaherung an eine 60jahrige 
Schulgeschichte (Heidelberg: ABC-Druck, 1987), 16 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 21 [translation mine]. 


a representative of the leading class, Rahel Levin and Bettina von Arnim (1785 - 
1859), the famous collector of letters and a writer herself, both educated and learned 
women, or Betty Gleim (1781 - 1827), who insisted on women's education. All these, 
however, stood out as individuals, not as examples of a class of women; and none of 
them belonged to the working classes. There was no provision for old women, for 
single women (unless they were women of private means or had the opportunity to 
live in convents, or in homes for gentlewomen). And yet, the first order of 
deaconesses in Germany was established in the nineteenth century. Again, this order 
— highly respectable as it was — brought with it the old image of women: women 
whose main task in life was to nurture and look after others. And of course its price 
was the a renunciation of Eros and Sexuality in the service of the other. While a 
cautious analysis can detect some traces of a development towards a liberation for 
women, these are minute and often linked intrinsically to the social classes to which 
these women belonged. 

But times change. Today Germany's only magazine for feminism, Emma, 
reports about the revolutionary first steps, where the old male privileges to marry a 
younger partner are taken over by women. Still scarce, they nonetheless do exist: "In 
every fifth marriage in Germany today the woman is older than the man," Emma 
reports, and tells us about the actress Hannelore Hoger (aged 59) whose partner is 25 
years younger than she is. When asked if she was not afraid of resentment, she 
answers: "Don't panic! I am prepared, because women are not allowed to do what 
men in an age of sobriety consider to be their duty: namely to marry a woman as 


young as possible who has to bear children as well. At least I am freed from that 
duty." 39 

There may yet be hope for Eros and Sexuality in the Germany of this century, 
in a way that did not hold true in the nineteenth century, as the Silly Teenagers ' 
Stories will prove. 

The Silly Teenagers' Stories 

Clementine Helm Backjischchens Freuden und Leiden {Silly Teenager's Joys and 


The fifteen year old Margarete GeBler, oldest of seven, is sent to her widowed 

aunt Ulrike von Jagow in Berlin in order to be made familiar with the rules of the 

"better society". She leaves her father's rural estate to stay in Berlin for about two 

years. Step by step she learns how to take care of her outward appearance, to 

distinguish between the behavior towards friends and strangers, and, in particular 

young men. While Gretchen, as she is called by her aunt, finds an adequate friend in 

Marie, her aunt's other niece, Eugenie, is her complete counterpart. All three girls 

find their place in life; which in this novel means the adequate husband: a baronet for 

Eugenie, a civil servant for Gretchen, and for the soulful Marie a pastor. 

Clementine Helm's Backfischchens Freuden und Leiden was written in 1863. 
In 1896 the book was in its 50 th edition, and in 1914 it had reached the 76 th edition. 40 


Alice Schwarzer. Emma. Nr. 2, March/April 2001, Emma-Frauenverlag, Koln, 71 [translation 


The entire book consists of Gretchen's report. In itself this sometimes reads like a 
handbook on trivial procedures like brushing one's teeth, washing oneself, looking 
after one's clothes, combined with lectures on proper behavior, how to travel, how to 
run a household, all of which is mingled with two love-stories (Marie is too sweet and 
ethereal as to be granted one of her own). 

One of the two protagonists is Gretchen, a naive girl from the countryside who 
initially displays some traces of authenticity but in the course of the novel shrinks into 
a faceless young woman who is not an individual any longer. She blindly follows her 
aunt's guidance and, in the end, will be a perfectly domesticated creature. Even her 
future husband. Dr. Theodor Hausmann, is introduced within the first third of the 
book and the reader can easily guess about the course of events already; there is next 
to no suspense. The "catastrophes" in Margarete's life consist in wearing the wrong 
shoes or gloves, eating the wrong food - for example caviar (which she mistakes for 
sweets) - and addressing men in the wrong way. At only one stage does she seem to 
cause a genuine human catastrophe, brought about by her habit of caring for young 
men, when she nurses the shy Baron von Senft who mistakes this for a genuine 
interest in his person and proposes to her. 

As the trivial parts of the book cannot have established its considerable 
success, there must have been other reasons. I presume that it is the contrast between 
the extremely adaptive Margarete and her stubborn, arrogant, elegant, wealthy, and 
rather refined cousin Eugenie, the secondary protagonist. Coming from a wealthy, and 

Clementine Helm. Backfischchens Freuden und Leiden: Eine Erzdhlungfurjunge Madchen 
(Leipzig: Georg Wigand, n. d.), forword 1, forword 2. 


socially highly approved of home, Eugenie is not interested in other people's 
opinions. She has a sharp understanding and can be witty if she chooses to be. So she 
inquires about Gretchen's friend Marie: "Is she always so blue and fair?" referring to 
Marie's favorite color and her blond hair. She calls the two inseparable girls "Castor" 
and "Pollux" like the twin-sons of the Greek god Zeus with Leda, and declares Marie 
to be a little "butter sheep," again referring to her fair hair, her sweet temper which 
has nothing edgy and sharp. At one point she is even comparing her to the biblical 
"Magdalene doing penitence." 41 Eugenie is imaginative and at Gretchen's first ball 
she sends the girl (whom she calls "daisy" because of her rural background) a genuine 
wreath of daisies that hide a costly wreath of silk apple-blossoms matching 
Gretchen's ball robe. 

The intellectual education in Helm's novel consists of the reading out aloud of 
approved German literature. Aunt Ulrike von Jagow and niece Gretchen - Eugenie 
refuses to take part - occupy themselves with Goethe's Tasso, Gotz von Berlichingen, 
and Emmanuel Geibel's poems. The same pattern can be applied to the journeys aunt 
and teenager niece Margarete undertake together. It is Bavaria with Bamberg and its 
famous cathedral; Nuremberg with its Sebaldus church; Munich, punctuated by the 
Bavarian Alps. This is no educational journey a la Goethe which would have 
comprised Italy. It is the safe, narrow, approved of part of Germany, approved of by 
this class of society. There is no report about a lack of education and the yearning for 
higher things, as Ottilie Wildermuth would have expressed it. Gretchen's education is 
sufficient for the wife of a civil servant of her time. 

41 Ibid., 1 19 [translations mine]. 


There is little said about religious or spiritual education. For a girl of the upper 
classes this was taken for granted. Only when Eugenie joins her aunt and cousin with 
Jesus' words "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among 
them"(Matthew 18:20), the aunt reproaches her "outrageous words," telling her "I 
will forgive you thoughtlessness and bad habits, but I do not want to know those who 
ridicule the saints. I hope you realize how irresponsible you have acted and repent 
from the bottom of your heart." 42 But she does not tell the girl why the quotation is 
frivolous in her opinion. Apparently piety is not to be questioned. 

The same applies for the highly questionable conduct vis-a-vis destitute 
persons in this novel. They are objects of pity and lead Gretchen to the outrageous 
question: "Do you like to do good to the poor, Eugenie. . .because for a long time I had 
the intention to introduce my rich cousin to my poor ones whom I visited regularly 
once a week." 43 When Eugenie answers that "the poor ones are extremely troublesome 
and therefore I quickly give them something . . . then I can get rid of them", Gretchen 
reproaches her: "But that's not correct, Eugenie, that's not the reason to do it but out 
of pity..." Again there is no genuine dispute about the background and the social 
reasons for being poor. When Eugenie is willing to help she does so in a rather 
ridiculous way. Instead of inquiring after the needs of the poor people, she gives them 
gold chains or provides them with table cloths, napkins, silver cutlery, because she 
herself is shocked to see them eat from one and the same plate with pewter forks and 
spoons. Although she gives in to ask her aunt for advice in the end, the whole topic is 
treated highly cursory, one task in a lady-to-be' s catalogue of education. 

Ibid., 115 [translation mine]. 


In Helm's novel Eugenie is referred to as an "independent" person. Her "great 
independence and peculiarity are... an attractive but dangerous addition," 44 so her aunt 
judges. The source for this interesting interpretation of "independence" is seen in 
Eugenie's stepmother, "a young girl [sic]... who was beautiful and charming but full 
of recklessness and of an ill-tempered mood. No warning helped; he [Eugenie's 
father] married her and realized too late that he had taken home a vain, heartless 
woman. For the sake of peace he endures all her follies but in the ten years of his 
marriage he has become a tired man," 45 so aunt Ulrike reports about her brother-in- 
law. In an embarrassing comparison the letters of Gretchen's and Eugenie's mothers 
are contrasted, here the letters which create homesickness and tenderness, there the 
superficial advice of what to wear, the latest French fashion, how to treat face and 
hair, which causes Eugenie to exclaim: "Oh, aunt, aunt, what a mother I have!" 46 It is 
all the woman's fault and not a word about the man who had married a woman many 
times his junior. On the contrary, throughout the whole novel Eugenie's father is 
portrayed as a sufferer. But like in fairy tales his vain wife dies in the end, aunt Ulrike 
now presides over her brother-in-law's household, and he himself is rewarded with a 
ministerial post. And since he obtains Gretchen's newly-married husband a job in his 
department, aunt Ulrike' s influence surely will not cease. Margarete's report ends 
with the words: "With aunt Ulrike close by. . .1 was given a life full of sunshine and 
peace." 47 



Ibid., 133 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 95 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 95 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 147 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 271 [translation mine]. 


Such an ending has much in common with that of fairy tales - "and they lived 
happily together until the end of their days," and it is one that nearly all the Silly 
Teenagers' Stories have in common. They all end up with an outlook on life where all 
difficulties have come to an end. In Papas Junge the novel ends with the ringing of 
Christmas bells and the slightly altered biblical quotation of Luke 2:14 "on earth joy 
and delight among human beings." 48 

To prove how dependent women are on men even if they are supposed to be 
"independent" like Eugenie is demonstrated by two corresponding, grotesque scenes. 
Gretchen, who wants to portray the Bavarian landscape, fancies herself to be 
harrassed by a man, described as "a huge guy who threateningly brandished a stick 
similar to a club." 49 The girl tries to escape, fearing death. When she notices a 
gentleman in town clothes, she cries for help and sinks into his arms. Luckily it is Dr. 
Hausmann (her later husband, as it would have been highly improper to sink into any 
other man's arms) who tells her the real circumstances: Gretchen' s aunt had forgotten 
her umbrella and the huge man wanted to return it, trying to attract Gretchen' s 
attention by showing her the "club," the umbrella. 

Apart from the fact that this scene is designed to show the "neediness" of 
women it is interesting in so far as it develops another trait: All unknown men are 
dangerous. The heroes are the "good ones," acting meekly and mild. The others are 
those who are strictly to be avoided. This point of view bans all female curiosity, and 
curiosity must be forbidden at all costs as it could lead to a personal development of 

Henny Koch, Papas Junge. Eine Erzdhlung fur junge Madchen (Stuttgart: Union Deutsche 
Verlagsgesellschaft, n. d.), 332 [translation mine]. 


the woman (including her own sexuality and her sexual desires). "The image of the 
incorrigible, promiscuous wife played on male fantasies and fears of women's 
sexuality. It is based on a way of thinking that sees women's . . .sexuality as deviant 
and threatening of the status and well-being of men.... Male status and prestige rose 
and fell according to a man's ability to control the sexual activities of the women in 
his household." 50 What Renita Weems writes about is life in ancient Israel. But her 
discoveries are still valid more than one thousand years later, just as they are today. 

Eugenie's accident is slightly different. When she and Gretchen cross a 
meadow, they are followed by a bull, provoked by Eugenie's red scarf. The moment 
the bull is about to attack the young woman, the animal receives such a blow that it is 
knocked out: "A high manly figure then hastened. . .to Eugenie who feebly fell to the 
ground." 51 The rescuing gentleman proves to be Gretchen' s refused suitor, the shy 
baronet. "Here in free nature. . .the baronet was totally different than in Berlin. There 
was nothing of that awkward clumsiness by which so often he attracted a ridiculous 
attention. . .The boldness and strength with which he had thrown down Eugenie's 
attacker proved his male power and importance." 32 Clementine Helm apparently had 
little idea how laden with sexual imageries her language was, and her readers either. 
Should one regard the bull (or the "club" in Gretchen' s case) as an image of animal 
sexuality or passion, ironically the future husband is shown to be the one who 
"rescues" the protagonist from it. Here again we find the preference of "the gentle 


Clementine Helm, 246 [translation mine]. 

Renita J. Weems, Battered Love. Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets 

(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 41, 43. 

Clementine Helm, 163 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 164 [translation mine]. 


flame of tender emotions which mellows the horror of heroic [here: "male"] 
virtues," 53 Queen Luise's court chaplain had recommended. The consequence of this 
encounter is the baronet's engagement with "the poor damsel in distress," enriched 
only by the piquant detail that Eugenie proposes instead of the enamored but still shy 
baronet. She even fixes the day of the marriage as the baronet injures his leg, resulting 
in such stiffness, that he regards himself as a "cripple." He nobly breaks his 
engagement. Consequently, the reformed Eugenie tells her aunt: "It was your duty to 
tell me this [the description of a life with a disabled husband] and my fiance's 
delicacy commanded him as well to release me from my vow. . ." 54 But reformed as 
she is she nobly takes him, and heaven rewards such a "sacrifice." In the Spa of 
Teplitz the baronet is healed. 

The topic of the Poor Damsel in Distress is an old one. Christian legends tell 
about St. George who freed the princess from the dragon's clutches. In fairy tales it is 
the prince who rescues the distressed beauty. In Brier Rose, when the prince had 
found the sleeping princess, "he leaned over and gave her a kiss, and when his lips 
touched hers, Brier Rose opened her eyes, woke up, and looked at him fondly." 35 In 
King Thrushbeard it is the mature man educating a vain princess who finds fault with 
all her royal suitors. After many hardships and humiliations, he tells her " 'I did all 
that to humble your proud spirit.' . . .Then she shed bitter tears and said, 'I've done a 
great wrong and don't deserve to be your wife.' However, he said, 'Console yourself. 

53 Giinter de Bruyn, Preussens Luise, 76. 

Ibid., 208 [translation mine]. 

Jack Zipes, The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm vol. I (New York: Bantam, 
1988), 205. 


The bad days are over. Now we shall celebrate our wedding.'" 56 In Snow White the 
prince even claims the seemingly dead princess in her glass coffin from the dwarfs. 
When she awakes and asks: " 'Oh, Lord! Where am I?'...[t]he prince rejoiced and 
said, 'You're with me. . .1 love you more than anything else in the world. Come with 
me to my father's castle. I want you to be my wife.'" 57 So the bewitched princess, the 
impudent princess, and even the deceased princess, all of them need a rescuing prince. 

The Poor Damsel in Distress 

Why do young as well as adolescent girls even nowadays still believe in the 

eternal prince who has nothing better to do than rescue them and arrange their lives 

for them? The German feminist theologian and psychologist Jutta Voss, who, in 1993, 

became "defrocked" by the Evangelische Landeskirche Wurttemberg, speaks about a 

neurotic complex: 

I want to elucidate the educational deformation of girls into a dependent, 
needy woman according to a patriarchal role model. . .by the eternal 
symbol of the fairy tale prince. If only he arrives, he rescues the girl from all 
anxieties, marries her, ends all problems and makes her happy to the end of 
her life. This sort of fairy tale will be offered to three year old girls until 
those going through puberty as stadiums of an inescapable development, 
which programs her concretely onto this goal and role understanding. The 
paradise of an all comprising happiness is only reached through the man. So 
this neurotic, ill-making fairy tale-prince-complex is deeply anchored and will 
not be diagnosed as a neurosis because in our society it represents a desirable 
and 'healthy' norm, regardless of how many women drown in their 
depressions. 38 




Ibid., 212. 
Ibid., 220. 

Jutta Voss. Das Schwarzmond-Tabu. Die kulturelle Bedeutung des weiblichen Zyklus 

(Stuttgart: Kreuz Verlag, 1988), 74 [translation mine]. 


May I suggest an alternative way to look at the story? 

Whose Tale? An Interlude 

Once upon a time there was a maiden of noble birth. Her father was a 

prominent king and her mother famous for her piety. So the young girl, their only 
daughter, was educated very carefully. Her long and ivory-colored hands learned how 
to draw letters from ancient manuscripts of legends. She could play the harp and do 
exquisite silk embroideries. She also became famous for her perfect and refined 
manners. So she was able to entertain princes from far-away countries, particularly as 
she could speak their languages fluently. 

Every morning her hair was elaborately styled into a sort of crown, decorated 
with pearls and gems. Her dresses were made from velvet and silk and everybody 
admired her attire. She soon became a model of beauty and modesty. 

Although she was so gifted, she had never learned to look at plants and 
animals. They simply bored her. So it happened that she had never learned the 
language of flowers and animals. 

Every week her father gave a huge festival, which always culminated in a ball. 
One of her suitors was a young man of impeccably noble birth. His name was George 
and he was excellent on horseback, although it has to be admitted that he was a little 
bit dull. He never spoke much and, when he did, it was often platitudes. But the 
maiden mistook that for a very deep wit. 

One day it happened that she went into her father's forests and suddenly found 
herself alone. All her maids were far behind because she always assumed on a very 
quick pace, and they could not follow her. When she came to some rocks, she saw an 
opening that looked like a gate. Full of curiosity she went towards the gate and peeped 


into it, but was deeply shocked when she heard a terrifying noise. A dragon rushed 
out of the cave, full of delight to see her. "Have you come at last, my love," he cried, 
" to free me from my ignoble circumstances?" But as she had never learned the 
language of animals she could not make out what he was saying and thought he was 
smoking and fuming with rage, thus snarling at her: "How dare you disturb me?" 

Horrified, she started yelling, something she had never done before. But 
nobody came to aid her. Out of despair she put out a piece of golden string which she 
usually kept for stringing up beads, and courageously she stepped towards the dragon. 
He of course was delighted, bent down his head so that she was able to put the string 
around him. She did not listen to the birds, sitting in the trees and telling her: "Don't 
do it! You will spoil the best!" Neither did she listen to the soft whispers of the 
flowers around her, warning her likewise: "Don't do it! You will destroy all that 
counts!" Instead she went on yelling as she was afraid of the still fuming animal. 

And this time someone heard her. It was dull George, the nobleman. He 
appeared on his white stallion and was disgusted to find her in such an inappropriate 
situation. Following her example he pulled out another piece of string and tied it 
round the dragon's neck. In doing so he did not utter a single word. "Oh, how shall I 
ever be able to repay your great kindness," lisped the maiden. And he 
condescendingly answered: "You may marry me." And as she had been brought up 
with so many legends, the poor damsel in distress gladly agreed to become his wife. 

On one very bright day all the bells of her father's capital kept ringing for 
eight hours, which was the appropriate duration for a princess (whereas a prince got 
ten hours, of course). The former royal maiden left the town's cathedral at the hand of 
her consort. He wore the blue ribbon of the royal order which he had been given for 


rescuing the beauty, apart from numerous other gifts. And, as you all know, he had 
even been sainted. The poor dragon, however, had been put into a large cage and was 
thoroughly bewildered. 

Years after, George's wife felt a crave for something different than modesty, 
piety, and excellent behavior, and whenever she passed the dragon's cage, she became 
utterly depressed. But until her very end she did not find out what was missing in her 
life, something that was more than refinement, perfect manners, and an always gentle 
disposition. All she did was to expel all plants and animals from her surroundings as 
she could not bear their vitality, wildness, and independence. So all her portraits show 
a lady with regular features, an ivory colored skin, but a face with a slightly bored 

Today her youngest daughter, one of fifteen highly accomplished young 
ladies, can be seen roaming through the deep and dark forests, always accompanied 
by her faithful dogs and with birds around her, and always found with one particularly 
beautiful rose in a vibrant red. There may be hope, after all. 


Fig. 1. Paolo Uccello, Saint George and the Dragon, c. 1455- 1460 
Tempera on canvas, 57 x 73 cm, National Gallery, London. 

According to Jutta Voss, "fairy tales have been misused in Christian time for the 

internalization of special and desired moral concepts. 


Scripture frequently concerns itself with such moral precepts. Titus 2:3-5, for 
instance, speaks about how: "young women [should be encouraged] to love their 
husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the 
household, kind, being submissive to their husbands." Joanna Dewey is justified in 
commenting: "These texts are part of the New Testament canon; they have been and 
still are used to control Christian women's behavior. Read from the pulpit today, they 


Jutta Voss, 74 [translation mine]. 


appear as general injunctions valid for all time. Such is the power of an authoritative 
written text." 60 The wish to domesticize and brand male interests on women is very 

Emmy von R hod en Der Trotzkopf (The Stubborn Girl) 


Use Macket, fifteen years old, lives on her father's estate. Her mother had 

died, when Use was a little girl. So both, father and daughter, had lived on their own, 

until Herr Macket met his second wife. Meanwhile Use has turned into a tomboy, 

acting only according to her own wishes and whims. As she has next to no education, 

the local pastor suggests putting her into a boarding school. When Use's father has to 

acknowledge that even he is unable to govern her, the girl is sent to an institute in a 

far away town. Use of course thinks that all this is her stepmother's doing and reacts 


In the boarding school Use shares a room with a British boarder, Nellie, an 

orphan who is training to become a governess. Nellie becomes Use's best friend and, 

together with Fraulein Giissow, a young teacher, shows her a different aspect of life. 

After Use has stayed there for nearly two years, she is "reformed." The happy end 

consists of three brides: Use, Nellie, and the young teacher, and a "real" boy for the 

father, a little son by his second wife. Use's stepmother. 

Joanna Dewey. "From Oral Stories to Written Text" in Kwok Pui-Lan and Elisabeth Schussler 
Fiorenza, ed., Women's Sacred Scriptures, Concilium 1998/3 (London: SCM Press, 1998), 26. 


"Emmy von Rhoden's Der Trotzkopf (1885), the first volume of a Trotzkopf 
series, still a bestseller of teenager literature, did not only shape our picture of girls' 
literature, but of girls' lives of the past decisively and problematically as well," Gisela 
Wilkending judged in her essay on Mddchenliteratur von der Mitte des 19. 
Jahrhunderts bis zum 1. Weltkrieg (Girls ' Literature from the Middle of the 19' 
Century until World War I). 61 

After the fall of the Berlin wall and Germany's reunification it even became 
successful in the former GDR. so my bookseller told me, where this sort of literature 
had been forbidden because it was judged to be bourgeois. Although the story is not 
as crude as Clementine Helm's it is hard to understand why this book fascinated girls 
and young women (and still continues to do so). 

Like Eugenie, Use's mother had died, whereas Nellie and Fraulein Gtissow are 
without father and mother altogether. For the girl without private means, so this story 
stresses, there are only two possibilities: she can either work for her living or marry 
someone, as both, Nellie and Fraulein Gtissow, do at the end of the novel. From the 
very beginning it is clear that a teaching position is nothing to be preferred ("only 
spinsters can become governesses," 62 "I am sorry, darling, that you have to serve 
among strangers" 63 ) and that female fulfillment can only lie in marriage. In order to 
reach this main goal a girl has to be educated according to standards established by a 
male and patriarchally oriented society. One of its main rules is: "A child has to ask to 

In Reiner Wild, ed., Geschichte der deutschen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur (Stuttgart: Metzler, 
1990), 242 [translation mine]. Note: This analysis does not reflect on the three remaining works in the 
Trotzkopf-series: Trotzkopfs Brautzeit (Stubborn Girl's Time of Engangement), Aus Trotzkopfs Ehe (Of 
Stubborn Girl's Marriage), Trotzkopf als Grofimutter (The Stubborn Girl as a Grandmother). None of 
these works were composed by Emmy von Rhoden herself. 

Emmy von Rhoden, Der Trotzkopf (Wien: Ueberreuter, 1982), [translation mine]. 


be forgiven and a girl in particular ." 64 In order to make Use act according to this 
principle, she is never given any reasonable explanation for this statement but instead 
told the melodramatic story of "Luzie," in fact Fraulein Gussow's own story of life: 
before becoming a governess. 

Fraulein Gtissow herself at the age of sixteen had been engaged to a painter. 
This man had asked her again and again whether she loved him and she had answered 
according to the whims and inclination of her age. When one day he had asked her, 
would she marry him without any money, she refused him like a spoilt teenager. The 
consequence had been that he had returned her broken engagement ring and had sent 
her a letter telling her: "How could I claim from fate the right that my life will be 
sunlit only? Farewell. I loved you very much." 05 Coincidentally, Gussow's fiance is 
the brother of Use's stepmother. Needless to say, he becomes a successful painter. 
And of course he will marry his former stubborn, now reformed, bride who - rightly 
punished by fate - had lost all her money. Thus he mirrors the fairy tale's King 
Thrushbeard, and again it is the man who is seen to be morally superior to the woman. 
One similarity between Backfischchens Freuden und Leiden and Der Trotzkopf is the 
topic of the good and the evil mother. Use's mother, though "only" a stepmother, is 
reported to be cordial, nurturing, soothing, and forgiving. Herr Macket married her 
"because her prudent and gentle way captivated him." 66 This again, reflects the 
Queen-Luise-model. Her counterpart is Lilli's egotist mother. Lilli, one of the 
boarders, is the little daughter of a Viennese Burg-actress. Everybody is enchanted by 

Ibid., 179 [translation mine]. 

Ibid., 59 [translation and italics mine]. 

Ibid., 67 [translation mine]. 


the child's beauty, but it is the would-be and often belittled poet Flora, another 
boarder, who speaks about Lilli's "Mignon-eyes" which seem to express something 
like: "Bad world, I do not fit you." 67 

Again there is an embarrassing scene: Lilli's mother does not even fetch the 
child for Christmas, she only sends her fancy dresses where woolen clothes and sturdy 
stockings would have been appropriate. When she gives her a doll, dressed in a costly 
ball robe, the child comments: "This one is too dressed up, this one I cannot put to 
bed. This one cannot be my child," 68 and prefers the simple doll given to her by Use. 
When Flora's prophecy comes true and Lilly really dies, her mother does not even 
come to see her dead child or bury her. It is the community of the boarding school 
who puts her into her grave. Her mother only sends costly flowers and wants to have a 
kneeling stone angel for Lilly's grave with the inscription: "Precious child, pray for 


Before her death there is an interesting discussion between Use and Lilli about 
the Christ child: " 'Does he live in heaven?' asked Lilly. 'Look, there I would wish to 
live as well. There it is beautiful. Isn't it? There the dear little angels sing, who 
formerly lived in the world, those were the well-behaved children, weren't they? The 
dear God fetched them into his realm of heaven, didn't he, Use?'" When Nellie in her 
down-to-earth way counters, echoing John 6:46: 'No human being has ever looked 
into heaven,' Lilli retorts: 'But Mama said so; she knows, doesn't she, Use?'" 70 



Ibid.. 7 [translation mine]. 
Ibid.. 89 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 101 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 129 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 98 [translation mine]. 


Although this passage cannot be compared to the "mother Clarissa passage" in 
Spyri's Gritlis Kinder, simply because Spyri is certainly not as cursory and shallow as 
is von Rhoden here, it is of interest because of the sentiment that God calls only the 
well-behaved children to be his [sic] angels. Even death becomes a means of 
education. But there is a genuine correspondence between Spyri and von Rhoden with 
regard to a heavy mundane destiny which people who die young might escape. Aunt 
Clarissa's explanation to Mrs Stanhope: "If our darling is to live only to suffer 
through long years of pain, can you wish for life to her? Why should we wish to keep 
her here. . .rather than let her go to that heavenly home, where there is no more sorrow 
or pain?" n This passage can be compared to Nellie's statement: "If the Lord says: T 
want to take the little angel unto myself, what can we do then? Oh, Use, it is not at all 
horrible to die as a young child. Who knows what sad fate might have waited for our 
Lilli. Is it not better to be dead? I would have been very happy, had the good God 
taken me unto himself as a little child." 2 It is likely that this way of dealing with the 
death of young persons reflects the 1 9 th century hardships in bringing up children. To 
the individualistic way of thinking in the 21 st century it nevertheless presents a rather 
stereotypical idea where, contrary to von Rhoden, Spyri at least tries to give the topic 
some depth. 

As in Helm's novel Backfischchens Freuden und Leiden, genuine questions of 
religion or faith do not play an important role in Der Trotzkopf, either. On the 
contrary, von Rhoden confesses a bias which certainly is not representative for all her 
time. When Miss Lead, the English boarding school teacher, wants to go to church 

Johanna Spyri, Gritli's Children (Boston: Cupples and Hurd, 1887), 16. 


with the pupils, all but the British pupils refuse to accompany her, because they are all 
too overwhelmed by Lilli's illness. '"I cannot understand this,' the English lady 
spoke. . . 'Is not the house of God the best place for a tormented heart? Does not the 
Lord say: Come to me, all you that are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you 
rest! '(Matthew 11:28) ... She went, and the British boarders joined her. They shared 
the opinion of the teacher in their orthodox hearts." 3 Von Rhoden gives a curious 
explanation, and again it is Nellie, British herself, who is the bearer of von Rhoden' s 
ideas: "Only Nellie remained. Not because she was less believing - oh no! She was 
filled with a deep faith but it would have been impossible for her to leave the house 
[the boarding school] which had become a dear homeland to her, at this moment. . . 
She went into the back of the room, knelt down and prayed passionately and fervently 
to God that he might keep Lilli alive." 74 1 cannot judge whether this might be an 
example for early chauvinism or a form of the protestant ethic of praying alone in 
one's chamber (Matthew 6:5). Nellie is to marry the teacher of German language and 
literature, Dr. Althoff. So she may be looked at as a "half-German" already. While 
these might seem as small details, I underscore them here to emphasize the traits of 
chauvinism and patriarchy that are so prevalent in this literature. 

The main subject of von Rhoden is that of domestication, not education. The 
male aspect of education is reflected by Use's father, when his second wife stresses 
the fact that Use is without a well grounded intellectual education. His answer is 
typical: "What does that matter for a girl. . .She shall not become a learned woman; if 


Ibid., 126 [translation mine]. 


Ibid., 128 [translation and italics mine]. 
Ibid., 128 [translation mine]. 



she can write a letter and has learned her multiplication tables she knows enough.' 
Although deep down he has to agree with the pastor's arguments that, at such a level 
of education Use may be thought of as uneducated and stupid, he remains 

The last part of the book is proof of Use's perfectly effective domestication. It is a 
repetition of the opening scenes of the novel. When Use had arrived at the boarding 
school she felt insulted because the headmistress had criticized her table manners 76 , 
now Use asks to be forgiven for every offence. Where in the beginning Use took four 
rolls at once and ate them together with a sandwich, 77 she now knows: "A genuine 
lady was not allowed to let anybody know that she was hungry, that would have been 
downright childish." 78 The "reformed" Use who has to travel back home on her own, 
but as she has become so attractive Fraulein Gussow fears for her well-being. So she 
counsels her in exactly the way the editors of the Girls ' Own Annual did: "Just in 
case, I warn you not to accept the attention or kindness. . .of a gentleman, may he be 
young or old." ' This, of course, leads to a ridiculous scene, where the son of friends 
who is to pick Use up, but to whom she is unknown and vice versa, addresses her. She 
had lost a letter and he had found out that it belonged to her. "What did he want from 
her? Why did he address her? As if she had not heard anything she continued 


Ibid., 1 1 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 39. 

Ibid.. 34 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 159 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 152 [translation mine]. 


walking." 80 The situation is similar to that of Helm's Gretchen, although not as 
dramatic. And again it is the husband-to-be who helps the maiden in distress. 

As in Helm's novel, von Rhoden's story ends with three unions for life: one 
marriage and two engagements. And similarly to Helm these stories are not developed 
but simply occur. After Use's return home she shows her photo album to her step- 
uncle, the painter. Of course he recognizes his former bride, Fraulein Gussow. So he 
takes leave in order to find her. They secretly marry and the former teacher informs 
her pupil, now her niece, Use, about the happy end of her own and of Luzie's story. 

Similarly Nellie is on the point of leaving the boarding school in order to take 
her first post as a governess, when, out of the blue, Dr. Althoff appears and asks her: 
"Do you love me? Do you want to be my little wife?" 81 And of course she agrees. 

Use's engagement is the consequence of Nellie's. The development is even 
clumsier. When Use meets Leo Gontrau. the gentleman who picked her up from the 
station, she is still overwhelmed by Nellie's letter. Gontrau asks her to read it aloud to 
him, although Use hardly knows him. Though she is not convinced that this is 
appropriate, she gives in and reads the letter to him. Of course he repeats Dr. Althoff s 
question: "Do you love me, do you want to be my little wife?" and Use rejects him at 
first. But then she agrees because she suddenly remembers Luzie's warning - but 
nevertheless completely different - fate. When he wants to kiss her, she reacts in a 
way that would have been appropriate for a young woman who had no deeper 


Ibid., 159 [translation mine]. 


Ibid., 180 [translation and italics mine]. 


connection to a man. next to a stranger. She answers: "Kissing is not allowed. . .How 
could I let myself be kissed by a strange man." 82 

The natural emotions of a young girl of seventeen are suppressed for an 
adaptation to a patriarchally oriented society, where only the father asks in the end: 
"Use, my little Use. . . Is it true? Do you want to leave me?" 1 3 The little woman leaves 
her father in order to become the little wife. The marriage ceremonies themselves 
underline this act: the bride passes from the hands of her father to those of her 

When Gayle Rubin asks the question: "What is a domesticated woman?" the 

answer is "A female of the species," and she continues: 

The place to begin to unravel the system of relationships by which women 
become the prey of men is in the overlapping works of Claude Levi-Strauss 
and Sigmund Freud. The domestication of women, under other names, is 
discussed at length in both their oeuvres. In reading through these works, 
under other names, one begins to have a sense of a systematic social apparatus 
which takes up females as raw materials and fashions domesticated women as 
products. Neither Freud nor Levi-Strauss sees his work in this light, and 
certainly neither turns a critical glance upon the processes he describes. 84 

Domesticated women as "products" were the subject matter of the 19 century and 
remain so today. For girls and young women, particularly in the 19 century, not only 
their mothers play an important role, their fathers do so as well. In a patriarchal 
society it is important to be accepted by the father, to be loved by him. Not only is he 
the prototype in heterosexual relationships for all husbands-to-be, he is important for 


Ibid., 190 [translation mineL 


Ibid., 190 [translation and italics minel. 

Gayle Rubin, "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the 'Political Economy' of Sex," in Linda 
Nicholson, ed. The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory (New York: Routledge, 1997), 28. 


the girl's development, in helping her to become her real self. The question remains 
why throughout so many centuries numerous women accepted their male-given role 
and did not dare to protest against it. As this can be explained by female economic 
dependency in former centuries, this cannot be said of today, where even successful 
women ("success" in the male understanding of "climbing the ladder") are often 
questioned in their gender role: 

To what incredible degree the neediness for male acceptance can go, was 
shown in the German TV interview Beckmann (ARE) talkshow, February 2002), 
where the feminist editor Alice Schwarzer spoke about the pressure on successful 
women to present themselves as sexually attractive and desirable which, in the 
extreme, can lead to their posing in the nude. Schwarzer justly commented that this 
procedure makes women most vulnerable. No successful man would even dream of 
posing that way. Why does an educated and successful woman agree to this 
humiliating procedure? The reason must lie deeper. Heterosexual women, so it seems, 
often value male applause more than female applause. As it looks they want to please 
men more. 

Hildegunde Wollner gives an explanation for this behavior in her book with 

the significant title Vom Vater verwundet. Tochter der Bibel (Wounded by the Father. 

Daughters of the Bible): 

...literature until the trivial novel brings in its train the never-ending story of 
an unimportant Cinderella's yearning for love, Cinderella who projects 
those numinous strengths [caused by the religion of the creation bliss of 
matrilocated acts of worship] which shall liberate her, liberate her to herself 
and her cosmic religious competence, upon the far away, unknown man. 
This is the reason for woman's inclination to be seduced, her ever new 


story of suffering and disappointment. . .But the patriarchal walls of her 
prison are so thick that until now only a few found out that not a man but 
only her spiritual strength inside herself can fulfil her craving. 85 

Here the two traits come together: the "Cinderella" feature which stands for all 
the children's stories and their influence, and the "father" trait, which seems so 
important for the acceptance of one's self, particularly for girls and young women. 

The self-stripping of women in order to prove their femininity is an act of 
degradation. It is an attack on their dignity and should be called a new form of 
subjugation - had it not been that this "subjugation" is self inflicted to a certain 
degree. Women exposed in glossy male magazines accept this because they want to 
appeal to male ideas about femininity. To my belief dependency of any kind, even if 
psycho-social, is an absence of freedom. Contrary to genuinely enslaved women these 
modem-day subjugated women are mostly white, educated, with no lack of money, 
women who do not "struggle to realize human wholeness and freedom" as the African 
American ethicist Joan Martin puts it. 86 Whereas African American enslaved women 
struggled "for self-expression by humans considered to be non-humans," 87 these 
successful white women want to prove that, although they excel in a competition 
dictated by men, they did not turn into bluestockings but remained attractive; that they 
still live according to standards set up by men. The one similarity - although on a 
different level - can be seen in the fact that they are not taken for what they are, 


Hildegunde Woller, Vom Vater verwundet. Tochter der Bibel (Stuttgart: Kreuz Verlag, 1992), 
92f., [translation mine]. 

Joan M. Martin, "The Slave Narratives and Womanist Ethics," in Women's Sacred Scriptures, 
Concilium 1998/3,65. 
87 Ibid., 66. 


human beings. In order to be accepted, to be loved, they have to do better: their bodies 

have to be shaped and moulded according to male wishes. 

Susie Orbach, a British specialist for anorexia and bulimia, once the therapist of 

Diana, Princess of Wales, defines this great (and chiefly female) illness: 

Behind their anorexia quite often there is the enormous anxiety to accept their 
own needs. Not only needs connected with food. I mean needs of all kinds . . . 
They cannot live what they wish for themselves, cannot follow their own way. 
Whether it is in love or in their jobs: anorexia is an inner imprisonment. 
Anorexic women feel: "All that I am myself or what comes from me is wrong. I 
have no rights, I am not allowed to be the person I am." 88 

This is world apart from what the Latin American feminist theologian Elsa 
Tamez emphasizes: "We might say that women's bodies also 'spark off sacred, 
epiphanic spaces." 89 

But the idea of a new, although mundane and very doubtful creation is in the 
anorexic woman as well, when Orbach states: "The anorexic woman wants to create a 
new human being out of herself, a person whom she can admire. . . Jane Fonda. . .has 
spoken about her eating disorders. Or Liz Hurley, she, too, is on a perpetual diet. The 
actress Uma Thurman hates her body. Yet all these women are icons of femininity." 90 

Although all of the quoted women are white and successful, what Elsa Tamez 
says about Latin American Women can be applied to them, too: "We can even go 
further and say that the battered lives of many women show male-dominated 
patriarchal society to be sinful and in need of radical conversion (metanoia) if it is to 


Susie Orbach, „Wenn ich hungrig bin, esse ich (When I am hungry I eat)", In EMMA Nr. 2, 
Marz/ April 2002, 51 [translation mine]. 

Elsa Tamez. "Women's Lives as Sacred Text," in Women's Sacred Scriptures, Concilium 


Susie Orbach, 51 [translation mine]. 


be saved." 91 The only difference is that many white women probably are not aware of 
this and may even help to establish and support this type of society. 

In her marvellous comparison of a text as a "body" and a woman's body 
which, according to Tamez, "is always a living text," 92 the body of a woman can 
reclaim its former God-given dignity: "God can be revealed directly from women's 
bodies, their sufferings, struggles, joys, and utopias." 93 It is thoroughly to be wished 
for that the white sisters may return to the wisdom of their Latin American sisters as 

It is time that women act according to Ann Spurgeon's [a student of Rosemary 
Radford Ruether] parable of the Naked Lady, designing their own clothes according to 
their own wishes and needs: "New life sprang up among the women and they 
fashioned for themselves garments out of the clothing that had piled at the side of the 
road, each unique and sharing parts of each." 94 

There can be girls who are overindulged by their respective fathers and who 
will remain that type of princess described by Hans Christian Andersen in his fairy 
tale The Princess and the Pea, princesses who demand too much, because papa once 
had given them whatever they had liked. The price they have to pay might have been 
to remain his little girl all their lives (and particularly during his life). 

The model for a successful father-daughter-relationship for me is that of the 
great poet Thomas Mann with his youngest daughter Elisabeth Mann Borgese (1918- 

Elsa Tamez, 57. 
Ibid., 58. 
93 Ibid.. 63. 


Rosemary Radford Ruether, Womanguides: Readings toward a Feminist Theology (Boston: 
Beacon, 1985), 25 \ . (Frauenbilder, Gottesbilder, Gutersloh: Mohn, 1987), 390. 


2002), the famous "Lady of the Oceans." She was Mann's favorite child and unlike 
those of her siblings who compared themselves with the famous father and ended in 
despair, some of whom taking drugs, committing suicide or simply lived on, deeply 
hurt, she represented a person who was at ease with herself. Her biographer Kerstin 
Holzer states: "She treated her origin in a matter-of-fact way, uninhibited by her over- 
powering father. That was easier for her than for her siblings, since she was his 
favorite." 95 

The same refers to Alma Mahler- Werfel, beloved daughter of the Viennese 
painter Emil Jakob Schindler. As she had been her father's favorite, so she became the 
favorite of the geniuses of her time. From early on she had but the highest self-esteem 
and a preference for extremely successful men. Her husbands and lovers were part of 
the celebrities of Europe: Gustav Mahler, the composer, who became her first 
husband; Oskar Kokoschka, the painter; Walter Gropius, Bauhaus architect, her 
second husband; Franz Werfel, poet, a third husband. Sarcastic commentators later 
called her the "widow of the four arts" (music, painting, architecture, literature). She 
was to be Kokoschka' s Windsbraut (Whirlwind), while Mahler dedicated his 8 th 
symphony to her. But even those beloved daughters had a price to pay. Immediately 
before Alma's engagement to Mahler, he told her in a letter: "From now on you will 
only have one job [she had been composing music herself]: to make me happy! The 
roles have to be correctly applied. And there the role of the composer, the worker will 
be mine - and yours that of the loving companion, the understanding comrade. You 


Kerstm Holzer. „Das junge Lachen einer alten Dame (The Young Laughter of an Old Lady)" 
in Suddeutsche ZeitungNr. 40, 17.02.02, 59. 


must give yourself to me, unconditionally, as my property." Again the Queen-Luise- 
model is the only one that can be applied and even a woman as self-confident as Alma 
gives in. 

As it is my theory that children's and teenagers' books of the 19 century 
strengthened and supported patriarchy, the fact of being preferred and valued by the 
father can alleviate this process and enable women to experience their own merits to a 
certain degree. 

How can this influence of patriarchy plus a destructive father be stopped in 
future? To my belief this can only be achieved by education and by providing girls 
and young women with new models which do not resound those of females dependent 
on fathers or husbands. Therefore it is most important to convince girls to become 
educated as much as possible, and the young women to be trained for a job which 
really fulfills them and does not just fill in a gap between school and marriage. The 
piece of advice Virginia Woolf gave to young women at Newnham and Girton 
College in Cambridge, Great Britain, in 1928 is still valid: "...when I ask you to earn 
money and have a room of your own, I am asking you to live in the presence of 
reality, an invigorating life." 97 

Henny Koch Papas Junge (Papa 's Boy) 

Elfriede Polten, aged 16, is the youngest daughter of widower Konrad Polten, 

aged 60. He is the owner of an estate. Her mother died after having given birth to four 

Friedemann Bedurftig, „Die Witwe der vier Kiinste (The Widow of the Four Arts)" in 
Suddeutsche ZeitungNr. 58, 9./10. 03. 02, III. 

Virginia Woolf, A Room Of One's Own (San Diego: Harcourt, 1989), 1 10. 


girls, two of them dying in their infanthood. Friedel lives in a rural household with her 
Aunt Lenchen or Lene, her father's sister, who strongly opposes the means of 
education her brother uses for his beloved youngest daughter, whom he calls "little 
boy." Friedel' s older sister Lisa, the aunt's favorite, married a businessman and lives 
with him in Britain. Friedel (or Frieda as the aunt calls her because of the feminine 
ending - in German the name "Friedel" can be used for a man and a woman as well) 
has received no continuous education. She is a gifted violinist, paints nicely, but is not 
interested in learning and lives the life of boy in the countryside, shooting, riding, and 
climbing trees. Her sister arranges for a British governess, but Friedel gets the better 
of her, so the girl is sent to a boarding school. Here she charms teachers and boarders 
equally, delights everybody with her inspirations, but then decides that she has 
enough and returns home. She is sent to attend a sewing school nearby and learns to 
cook at home. Dancing classes are equally important, and complement her 
'education'. On a journey to Switzerland where she stays with father, sister, and 
brother-in-law, by chance she meets her neighbor, who happens to be her brother-in- 
law's best friend. Frieda, now 17, becomes engaged to Klaus von Rodern, aged 34, 
and will be married at the age of 1 8. 

Henny Koch's teenager novel Papas Junge was written at the very end of the 
19 century. Its motto "Fermenting wine, hot blood, when they have bubbled up, 
things will be fine" is hard to endure for someone who lived through the 20 th century, 
where blood stood for war, and where the "blood and soil" policy of the Nazis cost 
millions of lives. The "young blood" jokes then and today are connected with jovial 
elderly gentlemen who want to prove that they are still the potent philanderers of 
"better," but unfortunately bygone, times. 


Unlike the other Silly Teenagers' Stories Papas Junge opens with a wedding. 
The bride is the 19 years old Anna Elisabeth, Lisa, Polten. She is her "mother's 
image, fair, gentle, delicate, feminine in every respect, in every fibre of her being." 9 
Of course she is aunt Lenchen's favorite, whereas her sister Friedel, "the gypsy child 
with the dark curly hair and the gray sparkling eyes" is her father's favorite child, 
although of the wrong gender. "How intensely had he wished for a boy! Heaven had 
gifted him with three girls [nothing is said about the oldest two], the fourth child had 
and must be a boy. She had become 'his boy', although it was a girl again. . . In vain 
did aunt Lenchen seek to direct little Frieda ... to her destined purpose by dolls and 
knitted stockings." 99 

The novel's "tension" is grounded in the contrast of these two sisters, one of 
them representing the Queen-Luise-model, the other one a young girl, brought up with 
the privileges of a boy because her father could not endure another girl. Lisa's 
bridegroom is of the same age as his friend Klaus von Rodern, namely 34. Von 
Rodern is invited to the wedding because there is a lack of unmarried younger 
gentlemen and because he will be a future neighbor, owner of the estate next to the 
Poltens'. When the whole wedding party proposes a toast to the next bride - vivat 
sequens! - Friedel has no idea what it means, and it is the husband-to-be von Rodern 
who provides her with a glass for the toast. So similarly to Backftschens Freuden und 
Leiden the future husband is there right from the beginning. This enables the bride-to- 
be to take some modest "liberties," such as speaking in familiar terms on unapproved 


Henny Koch, Papas Junge (Papa 's Boy) (Stuttgart: Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, n. 
d.), 29 [translation and italics mine]. 


Ibid., 29 [translation mine]. 


subjects like "marriage" (Friedel), or singling out a gentleman at a ball without having 
waited to be chosen by him (Gretchen at her first ball), which would have been 
regarded as highly improper behavior towards unfamiliar men. 

Friedel's intellectual education is of no importance. The British governess 
Miss Miller is a woman of heart and understanding, but cannot 'tame' the girl and 
change her into a lady, according to the standards of the time. There are some witty 
scenes where Friedel is supposed to play Brahms Lullaby but instead of it plays a 
lively Hungarian Czardas. When the governess stresses that this is not the right piece, 
Friedel answers her by stringing together a litany of English words: "Brahm's little 
boy, pretty town, lovely girl, thunderstroke, necktie, handkerchief, very well indeed, 
ever since, long ago. Amen." 10 " She uses the same system to impress aunt Lenchen 
with her 'progress' in the English language by telling her: " 'never mind - dreadful 
beast - thorny bush - sunny day - lovely weather - beautiful tree -Pears' Soap - 
Beecham's pills - ever yours' and concludes again with 'Amen.'" 1 " 1 It is hardly 
understandable that a person with such a limited knowledge of English can delight in 
Tennyson's Enoch Arden: "Phew, that was beautiful!" 102 The governess, who 
appreciates Friedel's courage when she rescued a little boy from climbing too high up 
a tree, who has a keen sense of humor and herself has been an only daughter among 
six brothers, 103 leaves when she has to acknowledge that she is unable to "cure" 
Friedel of her whims. 

100 Ibid., 45. 

101 Ibid., 71. 


Ibid., 75 [translation mine]. 
103 Ibid., 47. 


The next step on the ladder of education is a boarding school. Friedel is sent 
there because of aunt Lenchen. When asked about her favorite author she answers: 
'"Well, to be sure, I don't like them at all. . . I always loved reading Max and Moritz 
[two cartoon figures by Wilhelm Busch, 1832 - 1908] best, by Busch, I believe,... 
yes, I really believe that Moritz [sic] Busch is my favorite poet."" 04 From now on she 
learns about the poets of the German "Romantic School ...the period of Schlegel, 
Grimm, Tieck, Kleist and then inquired deeper into Chamisso [Adalbert von 
Chamisso, 1781 - 1838]. He [the professor for literature] read aloud from Women 's 
Love and Life, and he read well." 11 ' 5 The poems of this cycle (1830) describe the life of 
a woman and her different stages of life: "(1) Awakening of the girl to be a loving 
woman, (2) Exuberantly being in love, (3) Astonishment about the fact that the 
beloved one chose just her, (4) Spirits when looking at the engagement ring, (5) The 
happy bride ornaments herself for the wedding ceremony, (6) Emotions during the 
time of pregnancy, (7) Joys of motherhood, (8) Grief of the widow, (9) The old 
woman admonishes the daughter... to love." lu6 

To teach this subject to sixteen year old girls at that time is astonishing, 
considering the prudishness of the age. But in a way the poems incorporate that sort of 
sentimentality which was supposed to be appropriate for the female education in some 
circles of society around the year 1900. In Der Trotzkopf Chamisso' s songs [the 
poems were set to music by Robert Schumann, 1810 - 1856] are the explanation for 

Ibid., 100 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 99 [translation mine]. 


Dr. Paul W. Wiihrl, „Frauen-Liebe- und Leben," in Kindlers Literatur Lexikon, vol. 9 
(Munchen: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1974), 3668 [translation mine]. 


Use why she suddenly longs for Leo Gontrau: "Away with the stupid thoughts, which 
made her uneasy and for which only Chamisso 's songs were to blame." 107 

AJ.B. Hutchings finds an interesting interpretation in his essay Schubert und 
das deutsche Lied (Schubert and the German Song), in which he refers to Schumann 
as well: "In general Schumann belongs to the full ardor of the romantic fever; his way 
is not only merely plastic and taking to heart; but deeply felt personally if not nearly 
pathological as has been claimed for the Chamisso cycle Frauen-Liebe und Leben 
occasionally." 108 It is the the music of the time of Romanticism which Friedel plays 
most of the time (Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, Mendelssohn) in addition to 
Mozart. We never hear that she plays pieces by composers like Bach, works that have 
a clear emphasis on structure and methodology. 

No wonder that the matter-of-fact Friedel chooses to break off her boarding 
school education. Henceforth there will be no further education other than sewing-, 
cooking- and dancing lessons and Friedel' s final judgment is: "I am getting the creeps 
about pen and ink." 109 

Alice Miller speaks about the teacher as the "father substitute." 110 And 
although education does not play any important role in either novel, Der Trotzkopf 
and Papas Junge, it is the literature teacher who is treated and venerated like an 
omnipotent god: " 'He is awfully attractive!' Melanie assured and adoringly looked 


Emmy von Rhoden, 174 [translation and italics minel. 


A.J.B. Hutchings, "Schubert und das deutsche Lied," in Alec Robertson und Denis Stevens, 
ed., Geschichte der Musi k vol. Ill (Passau: Prestel, 1968), 145 (133-189)[translation mine). 

Henny Koch, 212 [translation mine]. 
109 Alice Miller, Am Anfang war Erziehung (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1980), 198. 


up to the sky. 'This bewitching smile around his mouth, the sparkling, profound eye, 

the narrow, elegant face...'" 111 In Papas Junge it is the description of the Chamisso 

lesson: "Radiant eyes hung spellbound on his words; the girls were totally enthralled 

by the marvellous poetry and the brilliant lecture - breathlessly they all listened." 112 

To admire the father, to please the (male) teacher, this is what Elisabeth 

Schussler Fiorenza calls the "Athena complex," a complex that can exist between 

women scholars and their academic "fathers": 

I understand this expression in terms of a systematic analysis of domination 
. . .she [Athena] only appears to be motherless. . . Since Zeus . . . feared that 
Metis [Athena's mother, Goddess of Wisdom] would bear a child who would 
surpass him in wisdom and power, he changed her into a fly. . .swallowed 
Metis... and Athena emerged from the patriarchal godhead ...Feminist 
scholars do not have the same power and standing in the academy as 
"doctorfathers" do. Hence young wo/men scholars must prove themselves to 
be the "daughters" of their intellectual academic father-mentors and must learn 
to understand themselves as the "motherless" offspring engendered from the 
brains of powerful "fathers". 113 

Indeed, both Use and Friedel are brought up "motherless" and, in a way, both 
of them deny their mothers in favor of their fathers. 

At one isolated moment in Papas Junge there is a curious, though rather 

cursory, hint about the "question of women." Inge Dahlen, one of the girls attending 

the sewing- and dancing lessons, decides to become a teacher to please her sick and 

impoverished father. His explanation for his wish is astonishing indeed: 

There is so much talk about the women's question today. According to my 
opinion the only solution consists in every father letting his daughters have 

Emmy von Rhoden, 73 [translation mine]. 
Henny Koch, 99 [translation mine]. 

Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Sharing Her Word. Feminist Biblical Interpretation in Context 
(Boston: Beacon, 1998), 14. 


the same education as his sons, envisaging a job for her as well. If fate decrees 
it that the daughter can fulfill the most beautiful and highest job of a woman, 
to preside over the own household at the side of a beloved husband, all very 
well. On the other hand she neither needs to marry an unloved man to be 
provided for, nor will she be a burden to the charity of others and be pushed 
around from one corner to the other, like an unloved piece of furniture. 114 

While this passage provides an insight into the lives of many women of this 
age, it nevertheless receives neither echo nor comment. Soon Inge herself dreams of 
better times than teaching, when she attends a ball on the Poltens' estate, given in lieu 
of Friedel's seventeenth birthday. It is difficult to determine the author's true intention 
about this passage, which seems to contradict the novel's general aims: a hardly 
educated girl's marriage at the "right" age (under twenty) to a suitable man (double 
her age). 

Like in Backfischchens Freuden und Leiden and Der Trotzkopf, religion, its 
rituals and doctrines, are taken as a means of creating a special atmosphere. So when 
bride Lisa and her bridegroom enter the church the choir of schoolchildren sings "The 
Lord has done great things for us and we rejoiced," (Psalm 126:3) 115 which the pastor 
takes as a motto for his sermon, in the course of which he praises ". . .the character and 
activities of the young, motherless bride, who had been the good angel of her family 
and of the whole village. She had sown love in an overrich way and now she was 
justified to earn love. By leaving her father's house a light had faded away, a pure, 
clear, gently warming flame; but confidently her family might let her go, confidently 
put their gem into the hands of the chosen man; he would protect his treasure and 

Ibid., 300f. [translation mine]. 
115 Ibid., 5. 


keep it in love and warmth, in happiness and sorrow." Here again there is the gentle 
flame court chaplain Sack spoke about at Queen Luise's wedding. Even the famous 
Ruth-quotation "Where you go, I will go; your people shall be my people"(Ruth 1:16) 
is not spared. It has dwarfed into the illustration of a good wife's following her 
husband. There is no question of "your God [shall be] my God" (Ruth 1:16). The 
whole text has been used (or misused) in order to make Friedel understand her sister's 
saying farewell as a wife. The girl, however, counters: "Rubbish!... Ruth could 
happily go, she certainly did not have a father or a sister who loved her so much as 
papa and I do." 117 

Following the wedding, biblical quotations are only used to describe one of 
Friedel' s fellow boarders, Gertrud, who is introduced as "our theologian [who] has the 
good or bad characteristic to produce biblical quotations for every fitting and unfitting 
opportunity." 118 For this she is continually reprimanded by "Shame on you." All but 
one of these quotations are taken from the Second Testament; "All who exalt 
themselves will be humbled (Matthew 23:12)," "...have your lamps lit (Luke 12:35)," 
"Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit (John 2:47)," "In my father's 
house are many dwelling places (John 14:2)," "Love another deeply from the heart (1 
Peterl:22)." All of them are taken to illustrate everyday scenes. 

Only one more quotation is derived from the First Testament: "The heavens 
are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork"(Psalm 
19:2). This is the only passage which is not followed by an instantaneous "Shame on 

Ibid., 5 [translation and italics minel. 


Ibid., 15 [translation minel. 

1 18 

Ibid., 92 [translation mine]. 


you" and is taken to illustrate the wonders of a moonlit night. One of the boarders, 
the most delicate one, Irmgard von Priesen, connects it with an astonishing 
interpretation: " 'For me the moon always is something like God's own eye. Serious 
and admonishing it rests upon me: Come up here, in your Father's house are many 
dwelling places' (John 14:2). Irmgard' s soft voice had said it. Her little lily-face was 
turned towards the moon and in its shimmer it looked supernaturally delicate and 
transfigured." 119 Again we find a trace of that death- wish adolescents like Nellie 
(Trotzkopf) or children like Nora and Elsli (Gritlis Kinder) had. But here the reaction 
of the bystanders is very mundane. Irmgard' s friend asks for a scarf in order to protect 
her from too early a journey into the celestial spheres. 

There is no genuine craving for God as I had shown in Ottilie Wildermuth's 
novel and all of Johanna Spyri's novels. Wildermuth and Spyri write of a yearning for 
God, though we may not agree with the result. In the Silly Teeenagers ' Stories we can 
find neither. God is taken for granted and not put to question. Christian religious 
rituals are used for enhancing a situation just like elaborate flower arrangements can 
enhance a feast. 

The similarities between these stories consist in the typology of the future 
husbands. All of them are nearly double the age of their brides, apart, perhaps, from 
Leo Gontrau. Dr. Hausmann is a civil servant, Leo Gontrau an attorney of law, 
Werner Horst (Lisa's husband) is a businessman and only Klaus von Rodern is 
wealthy enough to do no regular work but instead to travel around the world. Baron 
von Senft, Eugenie's husband, is a man of means, too. All men come from a 

Ibid., 118 [translation mine]. 


background where there is enough money. There is a difference between "first-class- 
husbands" like those mentioned above and "second-class-husbands" like Dr. Althoff, 
the teacher (Der Trotzkopf), and Marie's husband, a pastor (Backfischchens Freuden 
und Leiden). Those gentlemen possess sufficient means but no glamour, although that 
is substituted by their learning. 

Three of the "main" protagonists, Dr. Hausmann, Baron von Senft, and Klaus 
von Rodern "rescue" their future wives from akward situations that prove the 
women's "neediness." Klaus von Rodern has to protect Fridel against an ox (a 
situation although not as dramatical as Eugenie's "rescue" from the bull), and Friedel 
justly comments: "Fleeing from an ox, she, Friedel Polten, papa's boy." 1211 In another 
case where she has an attack of vertigo, she refuses his help, telling him: 
"Nonsense..., my father's boy is no weakling." 121 Both cases illustrate that, although 
she had managed similar situations before, from now on Friedel cannot do without 
male protection. Although she had never known vertigo before, she is unable now to 
do anything but crawl on hand and feet over the small bridge across the mountain 
brooklet. While she was brought up with cattle, she now needs a man to deal with the 
situation. But she is to become a "real" woman, and a woman has to do with 
headaches like Lisa (p. 241) and vertigo, and has to be afraid of large animals, she has 
to be a damsel in distress. 

Another situation brings the final proof of Friedel' s neediness, a matter of life 
and death so-to-speak. When climbing the mountains in the early hours of the day, 
where Friedel had tried to find edelweiss, Klaus von Rodern had followed and rescued 


Ibid., 264 [translation mine]. 


her. His comment: "A benevolent fate granted me to guide the reckless human being 
out of danger, back to life, to the sun, to her family, to whom she is life, light, and 
sun. . ."(Psalm 84:1 1). 122 Friedel reacts to this pompous address like a scolded 
schoolchild: "Friedel' s little head had sunk deeper and deeper." His own explanation 
why had followed her at all is : "He did not want to disturb her, only protect her 
against anything that might happen." 123 

The wise father-figure has to guide the immature woman. Both women, Lisa 
and Friedel, have particular roles to fulfill and these are typical for 19 century 
women, just as these roles were perpetuated later. Lisa, the angelic and mothering 
type, the "safe" woman, is the one who provides the feminine touch. Even in their 
Swiss inn she acts according to this role: "'What a charming place. You shall see how 
I make it comfortable for us.' And in the spur of a moment she had taken cushions out 
of the suitcases which she had taken with her as a precaution - and the whole room 
breathed an atmosphere of coziness and well-being." 124 To carry cushions from Britain 
to Switzerland is not seen as utterly silly but as something entirely adequate. And of 
course it is she who waters the flowers in the inn, reproaching her sister for not doing 

But Friedel' s role is different. She is to be the entertaining element for middle 
aged men (husband-to-be) and old men (father; visitor): "'This girl is really like a 
tonic from a fresh forest spring, no wonder that her father looks so fresh and full of 
strength. If one could but have such a fountain of youth at one's side!' And the 


Ibid., 247 [translation minel. 


Ibid., 277 [translation mine]. 


Ibid., 273 [translation and italics mine]. 


speaker, a dried old bachelor, sighed." 125 Of course he is a professor. Education dries 
up, is the message. 

To be a "fountain of youth," a remedy against old age and mid life crises, was 
(and still is) a reason, why wives had to be young enough to pass as their husbands' 
daughters. They were (and are) to be a bulwark against the misery of getting older and 
- of course - the means to secure a nurse in times of ailment. 

Gisela Wilkending presents another interesting aspect: "...These books [the 
Silly Teenagers ' Stories] stick to the contrast between a childlike youthfulness of the 
16-18 year old bride and the older bridegroom, and thus work particularly hard 
against social change. Above all they counter the endeavors of the emancipation of 
women. In Papas Junge by Henny Koch the low standard of education of the girl 
causes a special erotic attraction." 126 

I myself would not underline the lack of education as particularly erotic. To 
me it seems to be the educational trait in itself which will provide the husband with a 
God-like position, someone who will be always in the right. If I had to look for a 
particularly erotic element provided in the "fountain of youth" it would be the father- 
daughter-complex. All the three books concern a widowed father and an orphaned 
daughter. This situation can be only resolved when the daughter marries, in short, 
when the plot turns into a triangular relationship. Eugenie's father married a second 
time, but married the wrong woman. So Eugenie can continue her raptures about her 
father's portrait: " 'Little father! My only beloved little father!' she cried with an 

Ibid., 240 [translation mine]. 


Ibid., 236 [translation minel. 

1 1f* 

Gisela Wilkending, 241 [translation mine]. 


affectionate voice. 'Now I possess you again, although you are so far away from your 

poor, funny Jenny [Eugenie]. . .you terrible, terrible, dear papa!"' 127 Use Macket {Der 

Trotzkopf) implores her father when she leaves for the boarding school: "Mama [the 

stepmother] shall not write to me. I only want to have your letters! She is not to read 

my letters to you as well!" 128 Friedel {Papas Junge) charms her father: "He met one of 

her roguish looks. She went to him, sat on the armrest of his chair and put the arms so 

softly and tenderly around his neck that he felt pleased from the bottom of his heart. 

'Let the governess come, little father, we will turn her out together, we two. I will 

rescue you your boy.'" 129 And this father is so convinced his daughter will never leave 

him that when he has to face the fact, "Papa saw it open-mouthed. He stared at the 

two [bride and bridegroom] like a miracle, and then fell into his chair, he felt quite 

shaky on his legs." 130 

Daughters speaking in besotted tones of their fathers, fathers responding like 

lovers, does not seem to have been a problem at that time. And there exactly lies the 

problem. Even the second wife (Eugenie's or Use's stepmother) or a sister who runs 

the household (aunt Lenchen) were apparently powerless women. So Gisela 

Wilkending justly stresses the 

oedipal father-daughter-relationship and the romanticizing of an image 
of femininity connected with a marked anti-intellectualism. . . . Henny Koch 
. . .very precisely is out for a pubescent conflict of replacement. That explains 
her success... She interprets naive feelings of dependence and powerlessness 
as female together with most of her contemporaries and contrasts them with 
an ostensible male feeling of independence and omnipotence. . . The wife, the 


Clementine Helm, 107 [translation mine]. 
Emmy von Rhoden, 20 [translation mine]. 
Henny Koch, 39 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 314 [translation mine]. 


'good comrade': with this formula endeavors for the emancipation of women 
will be put under the tutelage of men even before the turn of the century. 


Again it is the harmless woman which is sought after, and again this is 
managed best if the woman is married in her adolescence and receives as little 
education as possible. Otherwise the "fountain of youth" might change into a 
dangerous source of wisdom and knowledge. The biblical Eve proved how lethal this 
craving for knowledge was. Therefore she had to be minimized into a weak being, 
easily to be convinced, influenced, seduced. And although it was really Adam who 
turned into someone under influence by taking and eating the fruit from her, she was 
punished and told "he shall rule over you."(Genesis 3:16) 

Adrienne Rich finds another interpretation for the 'safe' or harmless woman: 
"Motherliness' is split off from both sexual attractiveness (the temptress) and 
'motherhood' (the powerful Goddess) and is acceptable in its 'nurturing, selfless, self- 
sacrificing' form: thus in the fourteenth century the Virgin Mary could be worshipped 
while living women were brutalized and burnt as witches." 132 

By reducing a woman's role to a mere mother role and depriving her of a 
sexuality of her own, Mary could become what Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza calls the 
"Beloved Daughter of the Father(s)," "and the symbol of humble obedience serves to 
religiously inculcate normal women with dependency, subordination, and 
inferiority." 133 In addition, I believe it inoculates them with a guilty conscience, too. 
When in 1978 I wanted to return to teaching Religious Education four(!) lessons per 

Gisela Wilkending, 243 [translation mine]. 

Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (New York: 
Norton, 1986), 114f. 


week our then pastor told me he was going to pray for me to make the "right" 
decision (clearly meaning "to stay at home"), because my daughter was two years old 
and would be looked after by our neighbor, whereas my son was "safe" in 
kindergarden. Laden with guilt I resumed teaching nevertheless, bringing about a 
magnificent (and still existing) friendship with our neighbor. This neighbor, who had 
never had children of her own, became a third grandmother to both my children. 
Humans should stop splitting up the world into "good" and "bad" mothers and instead 
of it "design clothes" for each of us, with child or without, and abandon the old, male- 
made roles of the safe, motherly woman. 

Worse, still, though the Silly Teenagers' Novels have abandoned the mother 
altogether; it is the fathers who step in. Apart from being a hindrance on the way of 
female emancipation these apparently sanctioned father-daughter-relationships of the 
1 9 century bear the danger of incest, or at least mellow the danger of incest. How 
very deeply the longing for incest can influence the life of the adult is shown by 
Sigmund Freud's interpretation of Gustav Mahler's marriage to Alma Maria 
Schindler. Here we find both, the "safe" woman as well as the virginal mother. 
Mahler went to Freud for help because his marriage was in danger. Freud not only 
told him that he, Mahler, was suffering from a "Mary complex" because "for once 
apparently he still wanted to see the virgin in Alma and secondly his mother's name 
must have been Maria. So it was. Mahler was stupefied, since in fact he had wanted to 
call Alma by her second name Maria in the beginning. This direct hit was followed by 
another one, even more painful: 'Your mother,' Freud said, 'was careworn and 


Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam 's Child, Sophia 's Prophet: Critical Issues in 


suffering and unconsciously you wanted to find these traits in your wife as well.' And 
really Mahler remembered the first years of his marriage where he had wished Alma 
to be more suffering. But Freud aquiescened him with regard to his age [Mahler was 
41, when he married; Alma 22], this would make him particularly desirable for 
someone 'looking for a father 'like Alma." 134 

The harmless woman, the "safe" woman, the girl who is a "fountain of life" 
are the models the Silly Teenagers' Stories provide. The result is disastrous and 
extends to today's society. Until the present day women have to model themselves 
according to male wishes in order to be accepted. Under the title Don 't forget you are 
a lady the German magazine for women Brigitte reports about a Swiss school where 
girls learn how to behave properly in the world of the so-called high society. "The 
'finishing' subjects are conversation, cooking, and history of art apart from table 
manners. English is on the program, to adopt the correct tone with regard to the 
personnel. The arranging of flowers and dinners, the choice of the right perfume." 135 
What a program at the end of the 20 century and what image of women! 

So the question to be asked is: What then has changed in the 20 th century? Has 
the Students' Movement in the late sixties achieved a new understanding of the role 
for women and girls? Has liberation taken place? And if, who has benefited from it? 
Are there new role models? 

Feminist Christology (New York: Continuum, 1999), 164. 

Friedemann Bedurftig, „Die Witwe der vier Kunste" [translation and italics mine]. 

Silja Ukena, "Vergessen Sie nicht, Sie sind eine Dame"(Don't Forget You Are A Lady), 
Brigitte 5/ 99, (1 1 1-1 17) [translation mine]. 



timeless, adj: 2a: having no beginning or end: ETERNAL, INTERMINABLE, UNENDING, b: 

not restricted to a particular time or date: DATELESS 

education, n: lc : a conditioning, strengthening, or disciplining esp of the mind or faculties ... 3: 
the product of an education: the totality of knowledge, skill, competence, or qualities of 
character gained by education 

fit, vb: 2d: to bring to a required form and size: shape rightly: adapt to a model 

Children's Literature in the Seventies 

Michael Ende's Momo, written in 1973, has become a classic in Germany. 
Before I left the country in fall 2002 for my last two semesters in Cambridge, I saw new 
prints of the book in all the bookstores. Is it that in times of great distress (an impending 
World War, a worldwide economic recess, global ecological problems) human beings 
like to return to what has been approved thirty years ago? Is it because of the "timeless" 
topics Ende uses in this novel about time? 

I shall begin with an analysis of Ende's technique of storytelling as well as of 
the timeless topics he uses. As these topics are linked with humankind they are biblical 
topics as well. So I shall contrast them to their biblical equivalents: Jesus' temptations 
and his salvation of the world. I shall look into the theme 'innocence' from an Asian 
Feminist perspective. My final step will consist in exploring an explanation for Momo's 

In the second part of this chapter I shall deal with another children's classic, the 
Austrian Christine Nostlinger's Konrad oder das Kind aus der Konservenbiichse . This 
includes Nostlinger's main topic, education. I shall give a close look into Nostlinger's 


portrayal of women as mothers and teachers and find out to what degree religion plays a 
role in this novel. 

In the final part of this chapter I shall ask what has remained of the seventies by 
looking at them from a sociological and political point of view. I shall contrast my 
findings of the situation in the Germany of today and end with an outlook into the 

Michael Ende Momo oder Die selfsame Geschichte von den Zeit-Dieben und von 
dent Kind, das den Menschen die gestohlene Zeit zuriickbrachte. Ein Marchen- 
Roman (Momo Or the Strange Story of the Time Thieves and of the Child Who 
Brought Back the Stolen Time to Humankind). A Fairy Tale-Novel 


Momo, a girl of uncertain age - between eight or twelve years - lives on her 
own in the ancient amphitheater of a big town somewhere in the South. She makes 
friends with some people, particularly children, who provide her with food. In exchange 
Momo gives them her greatest gift: listening to their problems or encouraging them to 
make up stories themselves. She never gives advice but it seems that those people to 
whom she listens can sort out and thus solve their problems, may they be young or old. 
Her greatest friends are the old Beppo, a street-sweeper, and the young Gigi 
(Girolamo), a guide and storyteller. 

Apart from the gift of listening, Momo disposes of the gift of creativity, 

particularly by playing with the children. All seems well until gray gentlemen appear, 

whose sole goal it is to steal the lifetime of human beings by betraying them to work 

more and more. The gray gentlemen dispose of a "time-saving bank." But it does not 

benefit the time-saving humans. The saved time is the only means of existence for the 

gray gentlemen. Without it they dissolve. By playing tricks on the humans and lying to 


them they gradually change the lives of everybody in the town. All joy, all friendship 
has gone, and even the children have become haunted figures in the daily struggle of 
doing something "reasonable" and timesaving. 

The gray gentlemen approach Momo, whom they detect as their worst enemy, 
by coaxing and threatening her. But she resists and is in danger of her own life. A 
particularly gifted tortoise with the name of Kassiopeia shows her the way to Master 
Hora, steward of all time. He explains the connection between the gray gentlemen, 
human beings, and time to her. When Momo returns to the town, ready to enlighten all 
of her friends about the gray gentlemen, she finds out that she is utterly alone. The gray 
gentlemen force her to show them the way to Master Hora but cannot approach him. 
Hora devises a plan to rescue humankind by the help of Momo, but its failure includes 
the destruction of the world. Nevertheless Momo agrees and finds the place where the 
gray gentlemen store the stolen saved time. By setting it free the gentlemen dissolve and 
the town can return to genuine time, truth, and friendship. 

The book has been published in English under the title Momo by Doubleday, in 
1984, and under the title The Grey Gentlemen by Viking Penguin Press in 1986. 

The author Michael Ende lived from 1929 till 1995. His father was the painter of 
surrealist paintings, Edgar Ende, who was hindered from painting by the Nazis, as was 
his fellow countryman Emil Nolde (1867-1956). Ende's mother Luise was a 
physiotherapist. A mother with a profession is new compared to those featured in the 
biographies of 19 century's novel writers, and here it was the woman who had to 
sustain the family. 

Ende was educated at the renowned German Otto Falckenberg School for Drama 
in Munich. So he acted, but wrote as well. His first Jim Knopf {Jim Button) novels 


(1960) became a great success. Every child in Germany of that time knew Jim Knopf 
und die wilde Dreizehn {Jim Button and the Wild Thirteen), either as a book, a radio 
production or a TV series. 


Momo was published in 1973 and became the cult-book of the seventies, similar 

to the Unendliche Geschichte {The Neverending Story) in 1979. It was translated into 
more than twenty languages, made into a film, and was awarded with the Deutscher 
Jugendbuchpreis (German Prize for a Youth Book). 

This success is due to Ende's brilliant way of storytelling certainly, which links 
elements of a detective novel (Momo chased by the gray gentlemen), religious traits 
(Momo as the town's and humankind's liberator), and those of fairy tales (a tortoise 
sending messages in print). But there is more. Ende in the role of the author tries to 
dissociate from Momo's story. In the author's afterword he claims that this novel has 
been told to him by a travel companion during a nightly railway journey. He even 
quotes the mysterious stranger whose age varies between a very old and a very young 
man: "I [the stranger] told you [the author] all this as if it had happened already. I 
equally could have narrated it as if it was going to happen in the future. This does not 
make a big difference to me." 1 It is interesting that Ende does not use this as a foreword, 
but instead of it employs an unusually long and differentiated title. Title plus afterword 
already comprise the novel's elements: the danger, brought about by the gray 
gentlemen, the main topic - time - which seems to be exchangeable concerning past, 
present or future, as the afterword confirms, and the child who rescues humankind. 


Above this the generic concept is a construct as well. Usually stories are either fairy 
tales or novels. This story is both. 

The afterword assures that this story was given to the author and therefore it can 
be concluded that it cannot be his property. Thus it reaches into the realm of common 
property, exactly as fairy tales are everybody's property. The process of storytelling 
links together both: the stranger and the person who is told the story. By reading it, 
every reader is equally linked to it. Thus the act of telling and re-telling creates 
community and - at its best - a bondage between human beings. The author lets us 
know that at the time he was told the story, he himself was on a great tour. At the same 
time he emphasizes that this "tour" has not yet found its end. Here again past, present, 
and future are seen as interchangeable elements. 

The same technique of indefiniteness is adapted for the location of the story. The 
beginning of the book links both, time and location, when it speaks of "old, old times 
when human beings spoke in totally different languages, there already were great and 
splendid towns in warm countries. . . And above all there were big theaters. . . One called 
them amphitheaters. . . Since then millenia passed. The big towns of that time decayed. . . 
And in such a town the story of Momo came to pass." The third trait introduced in the 
opening of the novel is that of communication through storytelling. The former 
amphitheaters brought those together who were interested in theater, in stories. "The 
theaters were such as the people could afford. But all of them wanted to have one, 

Michael Ende, Momo oder Die selfsame Geschichte von den Zeit-Dieben und von dem Kind, das 
den Menschen die gestohlene Zeit zuriickbrachte. Ein Mdrchen-Roman (Stuttgart: Thienemann, 1973), 
268 [translation mine]. 

Ibid., 7f. [translation mine]. 


because they were passionate listeners and lookers-on." Not only were the buildings 

dilapidated, the gift of listening will undergo a decay as well in the course of the novel. 

Its great subjects: time, truth and betrayal, liberation and redemption are biblical 

topics, although Ende never uses the word "God." The only person with a God-like 

quality - apart from Momo, the Christ figure - is master Hora or "Secundus Minutius 

Hora" as is his full name, allusive to "seconds, minutes, hours." But Hora himself 

emphasizes that : "I am only the steward. My duty is it to assign every human being that 

time which is appointed to him." 4 He does not say whose steward he is or who appoints 

the time to the humans. He only stresses that animals have a different sort of time. The 

tortoise Kassiopeia 3 " a being outside time. She carries her own little time in 

herself." 6 Hora clearly states: "You see, if there will be no time any longer, then I 

myself cannot wake up again. And then the world would remain still and rigid in all 

eternity." What he can dispose of is only one hour of time which he wants to give to 

Momo to enable her to rescue the world. So Hora's eternity is a timeless, lifeless, 

endlessness and has nothing in common with 

the home of God .. among mortals, (where God) 

will dwell with them; 

they will be his peoples, 

and God himself will be with them; 

he will wipe every tear from their eyes. 


Death will be no more. 

Ibid., 7 [translation mine]. 

Ibid., 158 f. [translation mine]. 

The name Kassiopeia is taken from the Greek mythology. Kassiopeia is the beautiful but 
arrogant queen of Ethiopia. The punishment of the God's claim the sacrifice of her daughter Andromeda 
whom Perseus frees. But Kassiopeia is scheming again. So Poseidon transforms her into a star. There is 
no evidence that the tortoise may guide Momo because of a similarity to Andromeda. 

Ibid., 245 [translation mine]. 

Ibid., 243 [translation mine]. 
8 Revelation 2 l:3f. 


This is the reason why the human beings in Momo must make most of this life in a 
positive sense, since there is no God and no time of fulfillment equalling that of Jesus' 
birth (Luke 2:6). 

To the German theologian Jiirgen Moltmann the presumption of eternity as the 
fulfillment of time is linked with life eternal: "Life eternal. . . wants to be a 'life of 
fulfillment,' a life that is finally so completely filled by God's inexhaustible liveliness, a 
life that has become so intact has and turned out so well, that there is no restlessness of 
a melancholy remembrance and no urging hope left any longer." 9 

The connection of time and life is seen in Momo as well: "Time is life. And life 

lives in the heart." 10 There is even a strait comparable to Jesus' temptation in the desert: 

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by 
the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was 
famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, 
command these stones to become loaves of bread." 4 But he answered, "It is 
written, 'one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from 
the mouth of God.'" 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him 
on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, 
throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command his angels, concerning 
you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your 
foot against a stone.'" 7 Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the 
Lord your God to the test.'" 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain 
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, 9 and he said 
to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." 10 
Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'Worship the Lord 
your God, and serve only him. '"(Matthew 4:1-10) 

The temptation to always have enough bread for onself and for others is to be 
found in a slightly altered way. Momo's friend Benno Street-Sweep is the person in the 
novel, who - apart from Momo - lives for absolute truth. His slow speech is an 
expression "that he took so much time because he never wanted to say the 

Jiirgen Moltmann, „Ewigkeit" in Hans Jiirgen Schultz, ed. Theologie fur Nichttheologen. ABC 
protestantischen Denkens (Stuttgart: Kreuz-Verlag, 1968), 94f. [translation mine]. (90-95) 


untruthfulness. Because according to his opinion all misfortune had its origin in the 
many lies, the intentional ones, but the unintentional as well, which only come into 
being because of hurry or inaccuracy." 1 1 When his lonely search for the disappeared 
Momo (who is under the tutelage of Master Hora at that time) makes him end up in a 
lunatic asylum, he becomes untrue to his principles in order to rescue Momo. The gray 
gentlemen pretend to have achieved control over Momo. They promise him her freedom 
if he starts saving time for them: "So, think of it: complete secrecy and one hundred 
thousand hours. The very moment we have those you will get back little Momo." 
Secrecy and silence have been characteristic features of dictatorships. They functioned 
under Hitler's as well as Stalin's regime. In order to rescue Momo, Beppo Street-Sweep 
negates his own principles. When in his times with Momo he gave the advice: "One 
must not think of the whole street at once. . . . One has to think of the next step only, the 
next breath, the next sweepbrush," he now works in order to save time for the gray 
gentlemen and hates his work for the first time in his life. He knows that: "had it 
concerned himself only, he had rather starved than becoming untrue to himself. But it 
dealt with Momo whom he had to ransom." 14 Beppo Street-Sweep does not want to 
have "bread" for himself, but for others. To come to terms with evil for the sake of 
redeeming others is the greatest temptation possible, and she or he who does it, will 
come to lose everything. 

The temptations for Gigi (or Girolamo as is his full name), the guide, are 
different. He is a passionate storyteller, but the quality of his stories changes when he 

Ende. Momo, 57 [translation mine]. 
Ende, 36 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 182f. [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 37 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 183 [translation mine]. 


comes to know Momo: "His stories had walked by foot, so to speak, but since he knew 
Momo they suddenly had got wings." 15 He is altered so much by the child whom he 
dearly loves: "If Momo was among the listeners, he got the impression as if a sluice was 
opened in his inner, and new inventions streamed and bubbled without his thinking 
about them." 1 Gigi Guide is full of enthusiasm to rescue the town from the time- 
devouring gray gentlemen whom he naively underestimates. He dreams of fame. The 
parable of King Xaxotraxolus and Empress Strapazia which he told his audience in his 
early times, will become his own. As Empress Strapazia is greedy for power and gold 
and is betrayed of both by the king who makes her believe that his little whale once will 
grow to become a big goldfish which will provide her with endless resources of gold, so 
"the dreamer Gigi became the liar Girolamo." Without his knowledge the gray 
gentlemen provide him with a regular job in radio and television. His stories change, as 
he has no time to think of new ones. He loses his creativity when he tells the last of 
those stories, which formerly were Momo's property, among them a fairy tale 
describing their love. 

After a minute attempt to convey the truth to his audience, the gray gentlemen 
remorselessly remind him: "You are nothing. . . We made you., we pumped you up. But 
if you give us trouble, then we will let out the air of you again. Or do you seriously 
believe that you have to thank yourself and your minor talent for what you are at 

1 o 

present?" And although he starts hating his job, he continues telling mediocre stories 
but not the truth. So the third temptation Jesus suffered was Gigi's and he surrendered. 
He bitterly circumscribes his situation and his anxieties to Momo, who wants to contact 

Ibid., 43 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 46 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 177 [translation mine]. 


her former best friend: "To be poor without dreams - no, Momo, that is hell." 
Girolamo is unable to see that it is worse to come to terms with evil and lose one's self- 

For Momo the gray gentlemen use a different technique. When Momo, Benno 
Street-Sweep, and Gigi Guide find out that the children's parents accuse them to be 


"sluggards and loafers," who therefore have to be avoided, the three can convince the 
children that this is an unjust bias. So the children decide to come again. From the time- 
saving point of view of the gray gentlemen this is an enormous challenge. "Children" - 
as they know - "are our natural enemies" and continue that "nobody is so dangerous for 

9 1 

our work as just children." They want the children to do something "useful" and not 
"waste" their time by playing, but Momo stands for creative games. So they present 


"Bibigirl, the perfect doll" to Momo, hoping that she will forget the real children 
about it. Bibigirl can speak, but the sentences are repetitive: "I belong to you. . ., all will 
envy you because of me ... I want to have more things." So Momo soon gets bored, "an 
emotion she never had had before." One gray gentlemen tells her how happy she has 
to be because of that doll which needs loads of dresses, cosmetics, sports equipment and 
whose companion is "Bubiboy" [Bubi, German colloquial for "little boy" or a male 
acting like that]. The similarities to Barbie-doll and all her entourage are obvious. And 
the gray gentleman makes his intentions quite clear: "You don't need your friends any 
longer, do you understand?" 24 He is horrified, when Momo answers: "I think one cannot 
love her [the doll]." When he tries to convince Momo that perhaps inadvertedly she 

Ibid., 175 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 207 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 78 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 1 16 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 88 [translation mine]. 


may bring harm about her children friends because she herself is the only not time- 
saving person meanwhile he nearly wins, but then Momo remembers her own 
experiences with time-saving adults in her surroundings, who had changed and became 
harassed personalities. So in her simplicity she instinctively accentuates what is missing 
in the gray gentlemen's system, when she asks him: "Does nobody love you?" This 
question leads to a complete breakdown of her opponent. It forces him to speak the 
truth about his and the other gentlemen's doings: "We suck you dry until your bones. . . 
And we need more [time] . . . much more . . . because we as well become more. . . 
constantly more." 

Because of speaking the truth the gray gentleman will be brought to a criminal 
court, again similarly to the biblical judgement. He will be accused of treason. His 
punishment will be his own dissolution, and his cries for mercy will be wasted. 

When the gray gentlemen approach Momo a second time, she has just found out 
that all her friends deserted her. They are doing 'useful' work meanwhile. Not even the 
tortoise Kassiopeia is around. So Momo has no one to speak to. Now she lives under 
extreme conditions of loneliness, just as Jesus did in the wilderness: "She felt as if she 
was locked into a treasury cave of immeasurable riches, which increased and threatened 
to choke her. And there was no escape! Nobody could force his way to her and she 
could not draw attention to herself, deeply buried under a mountain of time," and learns 
that human beings need to share: "There are riches which lead to one's destruction if 
one cannot share them with others." 27 After Momo realizes this she has no fear any 

Ibid., 89 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 93 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 96 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 97 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 214 [translation mine]. 


longer. She wants to meet the gray gentlemen now and they agree. A scene similar to 
the judgement scene takes place. Again all the gray gentlemen are assembled. When in 
the judgement scene the locality was a garbage mountain, it is now an enormous 
square. Here again seems to be a resemblance to the biblical Sermon on the Mount 
(Matthew 5: Iff.) and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17ff ), only under opposite 
conditions: It is not the Good speaking up, Jesus, but Evil, personified by the gray 
gentlemen. They offer Momo a deal: If she leads them to Master Hora, she and her 
friends will be free. They need Hora in order to become the absolute rulers of human 
time. When Momo informs them that only the tortoise Kassiopeia is able to find the 
way to Master Hora, the gray gentlemen leave her alone as she is of no use to them any 
longer. They concentrate to find Kassiopeia, but as she is a being outside their system 
they cannot find her. 

The last but greatest similarity to the Second Testament is that between Jesus as 
the savior of the world (Luke 2:1 1) and Momo who rescues the time. Both of them do 
not attempt power for the sake of power, both of them do not act for their own sake. As 
Jesus enables a new beginning for humankind, so Momo liberates the people from the 
evil of the gray gentlemen. In a dramatic scene Hora makes Momo acquainted with the 
deadly consequences of the "necrotic, ghostlike time of the gray gentlemen." 28 He 
compares them to a creeping illness: "At first you don't notice much. One day you 
don't feel inclined to do anything at all. Nothing interests you, everything gets on your 
nerves. . . You become quite indifferent and gray. . . There is no wrath and no 

Ibid., 241 [translation mine]. 


enthusiasm. . .This illness is called: deadly boredom." Momo is to re-start the world. 

She agrees in liberating the stolen time which the gray gentlemen store in enormous 

underworld elevators. Her only assistance are Kassiopeia, the message sending tortoise, 

and an hour flower which Master Hora gives to her. The flower enables Momo to open 

the doors of the time-saving elevators and to set free a "storm of sheer liberated time." 

Time and life can start again. But things have altered. Unlike Grimm's fairy tale of 

Brier Rose where everybody starts doing exactly what he or she was about a hundred 

years before: "The roast began to sizzle again, and the cook gave the kitchen boy such a 

box on the ear that he let out a cry, while the maid finished plucking the chicken," 

people in Momo start having time again and enjoying it. 

Momo's sole "weapons" are innocence and love. But innocence and love are the 

two characteristics demanded of females since time immemorial. They were the reason 

why girls had to marry young in the 1 9 th century and before, they were and are the 

essentials required of girls and women even today. This construct is typical of the 

Western Christian world. Rita Nakashima Brock shows a different aspect when she 

speaks about the perspective of women in the novels of Asian American women: 

Innocence is something one outgrows, or else one risks remaining superfluous 
and disempowered. . .Innocence may be appropriate to babies, but innocence in 
men is foolish - and the women in these works see it as dangerous to 
themselves. Hence, innocence is not described as lost, but as rejected because it 
leads to victimization. Innocence is not a survival skill. It does not nurture and 
empower life or pass it on. Cunning, wits, tolerance for ambiguity, 
manipulation, imagination, moral reflection, and active agency are the survival 
skills that emerge with the rejection of innocence and the ripening of wisdom. 32 



Ibid., 242 [translation mine]. 

Ibid., 263 [translation mine]. 

Jack Zipes, The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, vol. 1, 205. 

Rita Nakashima Brock, "Dusting the Bible on the Floor: A Hermeneutics of Wisdom" in 
Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza, ed. Searching the Scripture, vol. 1 : A Feminist Introduction (New York: 
Crossroad, 1997), 66. 


Momo is neither cunning, nor ambiguous. She stands for truth and love solely. 
In this way she is not a liberating model for girls. She stands for a fairy tale world, 
where the Good will conquer Evil in the end. This has been the eternal female trap: If 
only / will be good/ faithful/ loving I can change the world. The German tract stories of 
the 19 th century have shown this belief, Momo is another proof for the 20 l century. 
Because of this women endure to be beaten by their husbands or partners like that 
woman I came to know who had been battered for twenty-seven years. When I 
speechlessly asked her why she had endured all this she told me: "Why, because my 
husband went to the church choir every Friday night and I did so hope that the songs he 
sang would finally reach his heart." She was unable to see that she alone had fostered 
his ego, that he would shrivel and lose his power the very moment she left him. 

Monro's success cannot be explained by similarities to biblical stories in a world 

that no longer knows about them. It is not explained by Ende's excellent intertwining of 

different forms and devices of narration. It is the language he uses. What could be said 

of Johanna Spyri and her way of describing landscape as "landscape of the soul" can be 

said of Ende's use of language. When Momo is introduced to the origin of time, Ende 

uses pictures of breathtaking beauty. He describes a "star pendulum" in "golden 

twilight" bringing huge blossoms into bloom. For the description of these blossoms 

and the light surrounding them Ende invents a language where color, music, planets, 

metal, words form a synthesis: 

. . .the sound became more and more clear and radiant. Momo guessed that 
this was the ringing light that called forth and created each of the blossoms in 
a different, always unique and non-repeatable form from the depths of the 
dark water. . . But then there were no human voices, but it sounded as if gold 
and silver and all other metals sang... Momo listened to words of a language 
she had never heard before but which she understood nevertheless. There 


Ende, 161 [translation mine]. 


were sun and moon and the planets and all the stars, which revealed their own, 
their real names. 34 

Again there is the fairy tale and mythology motif of the "real name," which 

enables authenticity and has to be protected. And only in this context Ende succeeds in 

constructing new words himself. When the overwhelmed Momo seeks refuge with 

Master Hora, his hands touch her eyes "snow-gently." ? Spyri's bewitching "landscape 

of the soul" finds its equivalent in Ende's synthesizing use of language. 

Although the accusation is justified that Ende escaped into fantasy with his 
second famous book Die unendliche Geschichte (The Never ending Story), 1979, this 
cannot be said of Momo, despite of the fairy tale traits. The subject of the dangerous 
gray gentlemen is not a fairy tale subject, solely. It describes the reality of this world, 
our world. For Germany in particular, after the great political upheavals and 
expectations of the sixties, then years later the country was in a state of lethargy. 
Making money was one of the poignant topics again. So the menace of the time- 
devouring gray gentlemen had become reality. 

Children and Adolescents' Literature after 1968 
Christine Nostlinger 

The Austrian author Christine Nostlinger, born in Vienna in 1936, is a highly 
successful contemporary writer. She received awards for her numerous books not only 
in Austria, but in Switzerland and Germany as well. Nostlinger received great acclaim 
with the Hans-Christian- Andersen medal and other important international distinctions. 

Ibid., 163 f. [translation minel. 
Ibid., 164 [translation mine]. 


Her biography is another proof for a general change in thinking. Here again her 

biographers not only mention a mother, but a working mother as well. Her mother was a 

kindergarten teacher, her father a watchmaker. After her matriculation exam 

Nostlinger's first choice was to become a painter, but then she decided against it. She 

married a journalist and had two daughters. We are told that she started writing because 

she was bored with conventional children's books. Another story tells that she 

illustrated a children's book she had written herself and that the editors liked the texts 

better than the illustrations. 37 So she not only wrote children's and adolescents' books 

but illustrated some of them as well. Today she lives in Vienna and on a farm in Lower 


Christine Nostlinger 

Konrad oder das Kind aus der Konservenbiichse (Konrad or the Child from the Can) 


Berti Bartolotti is an artist who weaves carpets. She lives on her own and is not 

interested in other people's opinion. Her mania is to subscribe for so many special 

offers that she loses track. So she is not surprised when she receives a parcel which 

contains the instant child Konrad. This is the most perfectly educated seven year old 

child, which complicates Frau Bartolotti' s until then unorthodox life tremendously. 

When it turns out that Konrad was sent to her only by mistake and that she is to 

return the boy, she, the girl Kitti, who lives in the same house, and Frau Bartolotti 's 

gentleman friend, Herr Egon, try everything to keep the child, because each of them 

established a genuine relationship with the instant child. 

Giinter Lange,in Franz, Kurt, Giinter Lange und Franz-Josef Payrhuber im Auftrag der 
Deutschen Akademie fur Kinder- und Jugendliteratur e.V . Volkach. (Meitingen: Corian Verlag, 1995- 
2000. 1. Erganzungslieferung, Marz 1996), 1-28. 


"The art of Christine Nostlinger mainly consists in sharpening the views of 
thirteen- and fourteen year old for reality. Thus young readers are made aware of the 
experience of contradiction by means of fantastic ideas," so Lisa Fritsch judges. 

In Konrad this fantastic idea is the "instant child." A society which no longer is 
interested in the genuine child and its sometimes sorrowful and difficult education finds 
its perfect match in the "instant" child. Such a child will be free from flaws, and if not - 
as it is seen in the "re-educated" Konrad - it can be returned. But generally "instant" 
children are schooled to perfection, well adapted, with a wide knowledge and command 
of language, not suited or comparable to other children. Outwardly they look like the 
true image of healthy children in children's food advertisements: "[A] boy stood in the 
can, who could be about seven years. He had a healthy sun tanned color, a smooth and 
soft skin, pink cheeks, pale blue eyes, white milk teeth and fair curls." 39 Whether this 
image of a truly "Aryan" boy might be a sublime blow of the "left wing" Christine 
Nostlinger against her Austrian fellow countrymen and women, I cannot say. But most 
Austrians certainly look different from this description. 

Konrad conveys one of Nostlinger' s rare positive portraits of a female adult. 
Berti Bartolotti's creative and colorful chaos and her unorthodox lifestyle provide a 
counterpoint to the average woman described in the children's literature of the 19 th 
century and even widely of the 20 .Berti does not care for the opinion of her fellow 
creatures. When Konrad asks her, whether it is the normal practice that girls protect 
boys, she answers that it does not matter who protects whom as long as "the one who 
needs it will be protected," and when Konrad continues asking if people would not . 23/04/2002. [translation mine]. 
Christine Nostlinger, Konrad oder das Kind aus der Konservenbuchse (Hamburg: Oetinger, 
1975), 18 [translation mine]. 


laugh about it, she answers: "Only make a mental note of this ... You need not care for 
other people's opinion... If you always think about the doings of others and then do 
what they do, you will become like the others in the end and then cannot stand yourself 
any longer." 40 

Berti eats unwholesome food. The book opens with a description of her 
breakfast: three rolls with butter and honey, a slice of brown bread with ham and 
cheese, white bread with pate de foie gras, two soft boiled eggs, four cups of coffee. So 
she certainly is not on a diet. When she wants to take a bath, she cannot do so: 
"Unfortunately the goldfish swam in the bath tub. There were seven small ones and four 
big ones, and Frau Bartolotti had fetched them from the aquarium yesterday and put 
into the bathtub because she had thought that the fish needed a change in water. Every 
human being goes on vacation. . . Only the poor goldfish swim round and round the 
whole year in their round glass." 41 

Frau Bartolotti uses make-up in abundance: "As youthful as can be done, as 
beautiful as possible," 42 is her motto. Color plays an important role in her life. She 
hates gray, but uses it as camouflage color when the instant-child-company reclaims 
Konrad: "Frau Bartolotti . . . washed away all color from her face. She put a gray scarf 
around the yellow hair and she searched ... for the gray cardigan which Herr Egon had 
given her for Christmas as a present. She had never worn the cardigan before since she 
hated gray." And when she needs courage, she uses color. 

Her carpets are famous for their rich colors. The couple who actually ordered 
Konrad (whose delivery to Berti Bartolotti proved a mistake) appear in gray. The staff 

Ibid., 89f. [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 6 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 8 [translation mine]. 


of the instant-children-company is dressed in light blue, the color of efficiency and 

youth, preferred by some airlines. 

Her gentleman friend Egon dresses in conventional black and pale gray when he 

does not work in his pharmacy. He is described as a 

gentleman in the prime of life ... 55 years old. And he was a friend of Frau 
Bartolotti twice a week. Once a week he visited her, and once week she visited 
him. Then they went to the cinema or theater. . . Twice a week Herr Egon called 
Frau Bartolotti 'Bertilein' and Frau Bartolotti called Herrn Egon 'Egilein'. But 
when they met ... on the other days, . . . she called him 'Herr Magister' [M. Sc] 
and he called her 'Gnadige Frau'. . . The friendship days, by the way, always 


were Saturday and Tuesday. 
He seems to be the conventional counterpoint to Frau Bartolotti and the novel neither 
tells us why they are friends at all, nor why the friendship takes place only twice a week 
and then on fixed days. Apparently Berti Bartolotti once had a husband who 
disappeared one day. She had wished him "at the bottom of the sea and there he seemed 
to be now, and there he kindly ought to remain." 45 Konrad, however, is equipped with a 
document by the instant-child-company which speaks of Herr Bartolotti as his father. 
When Herr Egon wants to substitute the missing "father," Frau Bartolotti is strictly 
against it, because "First she did not believe that a seven year old boy absolutely needed 
a father. And secondly ... if a father, why then such a boring, dull fellow like Egon? 
Egon, so she thought, that is the twice-a- week-friend for me - but no father!" 46 She 
gives in finally, because Konrad seems to be enchanted by the correct Herrn Egon. Both 
Egon and Konrad personify a world which is controlled by law and order, whereas Berti 
Bartolotti is the personified other, a person who does not tell her age, does not wear 
clothes suitable for a woman in the "prime of life": "Frau Bartolotti went to play tennis 

Ibid., 1 19 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 8 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 47 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 47 [translation mine]. 


in black slacks, wore jeans in the opera, went to the milk-woman dressed in a long silk 

gown and in the cinema she wore climbing trousers." 47 The only difference is that 

Konrad was educated that way by the instant-child-company, whereas Herr Egon chose 

to become so within 55 years of life and Berti chose the opposite. But both the adults 

agree that a lovable child like Konrad cannot be returned. 

This decision will have disastrous effects. As soon as Herr Egon is fully 

established in the father role, he tries to educate Berti Bartolotti: 

You have to change from top to bottom and have to become more orderly, 
motherly, more well-behaved. You must become respectable and may not be 
dressed extraordinarily. From now on you must tidy up, cook regularly, and 
watch that you only say things, which are good and useful for a seven year 
old boy [she tends to swearing or singing rude songs sometimes]. You must, 


you must, you must. 
The question arises again why apparently he could spend so many years with a woman 
he wished to be perfectly different. There is no word about her generosity, when she 
buys creative and fantastic clothes, toys, a bed for Konrad and spends all her money. 
Herr Egon cannot see that it is exactly her unorthodox life style which in the literal 
sense of the word brings color into his otherwise dull and orderly life. 

Berti Bartolotti has internalized Egon's ideas about a "good mother" so deeply 
that, when Konrad is claimed by the factory again, she accepts: ". . .1 do not cook 
properly and have too much color in the face, and Egon, too, says that I am no good 
mother."' So even a seemingly strong woman can be brought down, when her identity 
in a hitherto unknown relationship, her motherhood, is questioned. This time it is 
Konrad who claims her as his own and good mother, and the girl Kitti who supports 

Ibid.. 25 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 50 [translation mine]. 


So it is the "women," the adult Frau Bartolotti, and the little Kitti, who hatch a 
plan how to rescue Konrad. Kitti explains it to Konrad: ". . .it is quite easy. In education 
everything functions according to the motto: if a child does the right thing, it will be 
praised. If a child does something wrong, it will be scolded or not taken notice of." 5 So 
Konrad finally is saved from the acquired perfection as well as Herr Egon. Egon is 
"saved" because he does not want to lose Konrad and to a certain degree has achieved a 
new outlook on Berti ("Shall I perhaps let Berti come [when the instant-children- 
company's people want to fetch Konrad]? She is, I believe, more courageous than I" 51 ), 
and Konrad changes because he loves Berti, Egon, and Kitti. The method of re- 
education is quite simple. For every rude word or deed the instant-child utters or does, 
he will be kissed by Kitti, for everything else he acts accordingly to his drilled instant- 
child-education he will be pricked with a pin. So an exciting race of education versus 
education takes place, which Konrad wins, since "he simply loved learning 
tremendously." 32 

Those parents who originally had ordered him leave highly shocked because of his 
impudent behavior and decide to rather buy a dog, and the instant-company-director as 
well is highly shocked and concludes in a final verdict: "This boy cannot have come 
from my production, that's quite impossible" 33 Konrad' s final questions consequently 
are: "Do I have to be like that [meaning: impudent] from now on all the time?. . . Do I 
have to be as I was previously [meaning: over adjusted]?" Both his unusual parents' 
answer likewise from their different points of view: "God forbid." But it is the girl Kitti 

Ibid., 107 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 126 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 140 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 141 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 147 [translation mine]. 


who gives the final answer: "Oh, Konrad, we will make a good job of it," 54 meaning a 
well balanced education. 

So it is no wonder that the main topic of this novel is that of education. By using 
Konrad' s instant-company-education as a foil, Nostlinger shows the cruelty of an 
education which is no longer interested in the child itself but drills children into 
functioning objects. Like instant food the instant child has to be ready for use: no 
difficulties with the rearing, no illness, no handicaps, a standardized attractiveness 
which later on might turn out into that of the approved High School cheerleader or the 
most handsome baseball or golf player. All this is combined with brains. Konrad's 
fictitious school report excels with the best results in every possible subject. In today's 
internet pages for example "in virtual marketplaces American ovum agencies praise 
female donators (age 22, Height 5 '2, Degree: Master's) and assure their prospective 
buyers from Germany. . .in clumsy German, that every woman is able to present 
intelligence tests and a medical report." 55 All this sounds like Aldous Huxley's novel 
Brave New World, which was written in 1934 and seems to find its final fulfilment 
today. But even Christine Nostlinger' s vision from 1975, when Konrad was written, 
seems to be no unrealistic estimate. 

The instant-child-education Konrad received, is restrictive. "Seven year old boys 
should only look into mirrors, when cleaning their ears and teeth, otherwise they will 
become vain and complacent." 56 This rule existed for my own generation equally. 
Children disturb. So the correct Konrad asks, where he might play: " 'Where will I 
disturb least?' a question, Berti Bartolotti is unable to answer: 'You don't disturb me at 

Ibid., 148 [translation mine]. 

Martin Spiewak, „Schwanger um jeden Preis. (Pregnant at all Costs)" DIE ZEIT, Nr. 39, 8. Mai 
2002, 35. 


all. Really! I don't mind if you play everywhere,' and it is the instant-child who gives 
the 'reasonable' answer when Berti encourages him to have a look at all his new toys: 'I 
believe it is better and more sensible for a seven year old boy to play only with one 
thing for the time being and concentrate on it solely, otherwise one becomes rather 
nervous!'" 57 

Konrad reveals that kisses are only appropriate for children as a reward, not as an 
act of spontaneity or emotion: "I stayed at home on my own, I did not break anything 


nor did I damage anything. . . I believe then, that you may kiss me." 

In Konrad' s education guilt played an important role. Before leaving the factory 
the instant children were schooled in feelings of guilt. Everything forbidden was 
covered under that term, might it be eating sweets before going to bed nor not 
answering the absolute truth. This leads to the discovery, that Konrad does not know 
what he himself feels, since his emotions are only supposed to mirror those of others. 
Although Konrad is not familiar with human sensations like jealousy or hate, he 
soon finds out that he is drawn towards the girl Kitti and he reacts positively when he 
finds out that she loves him and promises to protect him against other boys, although 
his instant-education sense of propriety tells him, girls ought not protect boys. The 
gender roles in the instant-production conception of life cannot allow for a powerful 
female and a male, though little, in need of female protection. 

The perfection of Konrad' s instant-schooling is contrasted with Kitti' s school 
Konrad is to attend in future. Nostlinger designs schools populated by incapable 
teachers, often female, or subjects taught without any talent or enthusiasm. Her teachers 

C. Nostlinger, Konrad, 32 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 35 [translation mine]. 


Ibid., 29 [translation mine]. 


certainly are lacking ideas, prefer and praise their favorite pupils in front of the whole 

class, and use methods from the beginning of the last century. They leave children in 

charge of the class (101); so Konrad as the best pupil has to report about the on-goings 

during his teacher's absence, which makes him the most hated pupil in his class. 

Nostlinger's message is: School is boring. In her novel with the ambiguous title 

Stundenplan {Timetable), like Konrad written in 1975, school is the topic again. A 

teacher (female) with the speaking name "Wurm" (worm), produces boring lessons, is 

corpulent, had a fat 55 years behind her. Until three years ago the Wurm was even 
stouter. During a reduction diet the Wurm had devoured much of the own flesh, 
but the skin had remained. The skin hung under the double chin, hung above the 
eyes, over the elbows, around the knees. The quite commonly . . .carved 
traffic/intercourse sign [in the school benches] ('Verkehr' in German means 
'traffic' and 'sexual intercourse') in connection with the Wurm became obscene, 
indecent, unpleasant. 39 

Similarly Nostlinger's novels abhor mothers. Most of them are interfering, narrow 

minded, unpleasant creatures. In Stundenplan the protagonist Annika's mother is said to 

have a 

hideous back part. You see the bra through the pullover. You can even see that 
the bra was closed at the last link, and that fat was wobbling above and under the 
bra. The back part is checkered. A checkered broad arse. Checkered broad arse 
. . .flows checkered under the armrest, between the bars of the backrest. 60 

Annika's titles for her mother are "mater dolorosa" (14), "lindworm" (21), "broad arse" 


Nostlinger's mother hatred has something pathological. Even when there are hints 

that her topics are those of her own family, "therefore the conflict between mothers and 

daughters often is a topic, since the relationship with her own mother was very tense 

throughout her complete childhood. Autobiographically conditioned on the other hand 

Christine Nostlinger, Stundenplan (Weinheim:Beltz, 14th ed. 1 99 1 ), 5f. [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 22 [translation mine]. 


is the extraordinarily positive point of view and description of fathers and 
grandfathers." 61 There are many women with difficult relationships to their mothers. 
Nevertheless this does not justify the condemnation of a whole station of life. In my 
opinion Lange's critique is correct that "her portrayal of adults often turned out into a 
caricature. The presentations of mothers in her books were particularly negative and 
therefore in no way acceptable." 

Berti Bartolotti can be a positive mother figure because she never gave birth to a 
child. In a way she and Konrad have changed roles. Being drilled by a "perfect" instant- 
education Konrad knows what is expected by children and how parents ought to 
behave. Both the adults, Berti Bartolotti and Herr Egon, have to learn how to become 
parents. This is the positive message of the novel: An education comprising all spheres 
only can turn out well, when all the persons concerned are willing to learn, when there 
is no power construct established, and gender becomes unimportant. So far this novel 
provides new roles and is liberating. But this is not the case with all of Nostlinger' s 
stories. The critique by N. Packler is justified that she "criticized intensely the 
traditional role deportment but showed too little alternative role images." 64 

What is interesting are the blanks in Konrad' s education. So he does not know 
about flowers, which perhaps can be seen as a symbol for all that is natural. But he does 
not know about religion either, particularly about the Christ child and St. Nicolas. So 

Gunter Lange, 2 [translation mine]. 

I intended to discuss all this with Mrs. Nostlinger in person. When she never answered my letter, 
I found out by contacting one of her publishing houses that (1.) she never answers letter, and (2.) she 
never gives interviews. 

Gunter Lange, 17 [translation mine]. 

N. Packler, „Literatur fur Kinder - Literatur zur Kindheit. Eine kritische Wurdigung des Werks 
von Christine Nostlinger durch einen einheimischen Germanisten" in 1000 & 1 Buck, 3/1993, 29-31, 
[translation mine]. 


Herr Egon informs him about the Christ child and its duties. The result is highly 

amusing and at the same time shows Nostlinger's social critique: 

Well, I [Konrad] repeat: The Christ child has wings and comes from heaven and 
floats down and gives presents to all children. Rich children get much, poor ones 
get little, and the very poor don't get anything at all. St. Nicolas does not have 
wings but a golden stick. He comes three weeks earlier and delivers in a similar 
way. Is that correct? 65 

It is Berti Bartolotti who enlightens Konrad by telling him: " 'Nothing is correct what 

he [Herr Egon] told you, nothing at all. There is no Christ child and no St. Nicolas, and 

there is no Easter bunny either.' And when Konrad inquires after the bunny, she 

summarizes: 'Continually adults want to cheat children. Perpetually they demonstrate 

them: Look, how mighty, how bright, how intelligent, and how good we are.'" 66 

Religion, no longer plays a role in Nostlinger's or in most of her contemporaries' 
novels, and if it does feature, it does so only in a restrictive sense. It is Konrad' s instant- 
education that hinders him to lie, not religious scruples. Nostlinger's message is that the 
telling of lies might become a means of survival. Konrad is hated in his new school 
class because he always tells the absolute truth. 

But on the whole religion is no longer a topic as it was in the 1 9 century. It is no 
longer forming a bond between people, no longer a subject causing frictions. In the 
codex of education of the 20 century religion no longer plays an important role. As a 
value system it has been replaced by secular ethics such as the readiness to help, 
however, not for the sake of doing a good deed, but for uniting against an unjust system. 
To get the better of it is part of the game in Nostlinger's narratives. 

So Giinter Lange can state three different stages in Nostlinger's works in general: 

Nostlinger, 59 [translation mine]. 
Ibid., 60 [translation mine]. 


At the beginning of the seventies it was her [Nostlinger's] aim, to help 
children and adolescents to better face their problems and difficulties. 
Connected with this was her main goal to lay bare social injustice and to 
remove inequalities between humans. . .At the end of the seventies. . .she 
lost her political optimism: 'I have to be careful like hell not to become 
without hope or cynical.' . . .At the end of the eighties. . . [h]er demands are 
very moderate... to give up all education finally. 

The Seventies and What Remained 

There was a new optimism in the air of the sixties and the beginning of the 
seventies. Education in general had become a subject. Books like Klaus Mollenhauer's 
Erziehung und Emanzipation (Education and Emancipation) were already 


programmatic in their chosen title. Hartmut von Hentig founded his "Laborschule" 
(Laboratory School), a school which encouraged new ways of education, in Bielefeld. 
The early seventies had witnessed Georg Picht's Mutzur Utopie (Courage for Utopia) 69 
and his claiming the right of education for men and women even in the smallest village 
in the Black Forest. During my undergraduate studies at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat 
Freiburg im Breisgau, Picht disciples implored us to go and find the intellectual 
"resources" in every place and encourage women in particular to undertake university 
studies. There was hope for a change, for more justice, and welfare for the working 
population. New books were issued by new publishing houses. Jack Zipes in his essay 
from 1976 speaks about "Basic books are directly related to the actual class struggles in 
West Germany. The major figures are from the working classes, and the contents of the 

Lange, 15 [translation mine]. 

Klaus Mollenhauer, Erziehung und Emanzipation. Polemische Skizzen (Munchen: Juventa, 


stories are... of utmost concern to the underprivileged in society and lead to developing 

class consciousness." 70 

The seventies were a decade deeply torn between a longing for harmony and the 
wish to live with values different from the established ones. The German television 
WDR Koln brought an impressive series about a Journey into the Fifties, Sixties, 
Seventies. The German author and journalist Elke Heidenreich and the Austrian 
journalist Dietmar Schonherr discussed this search for a new identity which the singer 
Klaus Hofmann circumscribed by "I am the blind/ therefore lead me/ come, we drop all 
rules." According to both journalists the seventies as well as the sixties were the age of 
restrictions. Young people as a rule did not possess a room of their own, they still lived 
together with their parents, who controlled their lives. The pretended intact world was 
unmasked. New and hitherto unknown disasters took place like the ecological 
catastrophes of Seveso with its barrels of poison or the average of the ship Amoco 
Cadiz causing the death of birds and beasts in an oil plague. Germany had its first smog 
alarm, and the use of cars was forbidden, even though for only a short time. Other 
topics became equally important, so the question of women, which found its 
mouthpiece for the first time: the German feminist Alice Schwarzer and other women 
founded Emma, the still one and only feminist magazine in Germany. Girls realized, 
together with the singer Ina Deters: "I was only a girl/ if only I had died immediately," 
and Alice Schwarzer commented that "the cry from the throat of the oppressed is 

Georg Picht, Mutzur Utopie. Die grofien Zukunfisaufgaben (Miinchen: Piper. 1970). 
70 Zipes, 17 If. 

WDR. „Reise in die 50-er, 60-er, 70-er Jahre" Teil 5. Smogalarm und Discofieber, 27.08.0 1 , 
21.05 Uhr, Redaktion Gudrun Wolter; Teil 6. Deutscher Herbst und Fohnfrisur, 03.09.01, 21.05 Uhr 
[translation mine]. I am indebted to Waltraud Vogt, WDR Koln, who generously lent me the videos. 


justified [for our society], only women shall remain well-behaved," and the singer Nina 
Hagen not only provoked by her way to dress and act, but sang: "I have no desire to 
fulfill my duty." 

There was an important political change. Willi Brandt, the social democrat, 
worked for "change through rapprochement." The photos of his prostration in the ghetto 
of Warsaw went around the world and young people commented: "At least someone has 
recollected guilt." 

I remember strongly the motion of no confidence in 1 972 which would have led to 
the voting out of Brandt as a chancellor. With my then matriculated pupils I sat in front 
of the television, fevering about the result. I never felt more in solidarity with people 
older and younger than myself as in those times, and the refusal of the motion 
strengthened my belief in justice. 

But all this lasted for a very short time only. In 1974 the Middle East crisis 
endangered jobs and presented us Germans car-free streets. As Elke Heidenreich put it: 
"No longer were life dreams fulfilled." People retreated into private happiness or sects. 
The struggle for more justice and a better distribution of the goods of this world which 
Ulrike Meinhoff, Andreas Baader, and Gudrun Ensslin intended, ended in an "orgy of 
violence" (Heidenreich). Meinhoff, Baader, and Ensslin became the most wanted 
persons in the whole country. There was police presence everywhere, and I recollect 
driving on the autobahn, when suddenly I found myself escorted by the police. The 
reason: my then shoulder long brown hair made me resemble Ulrike Meinhoff. 

Altogether, the seventies were what Elke Heidenreich called "a dismal century." It 
was shaped by insecurity, violence, and the trial to find individual ways out of the 


misery, but without the conviction that it could be done. In that respect Christine 
Nostlinger's scruples and end-of- world-thoughts were justified. 

Although I do not share Nostlinger's pessimism of the late eighties that education 
ought to be given up altogether, I believe that the great ideas of the seventies came to a 
standstill and meet with very little interest nowadays. The world has changed. Wars and 
unemployment are the topics of today. 

Picht's calls for women's education or a broader education in general have been 
fulfilled. More than fifty percent of all university students in Germany are women. In 
university towns such like Heidelberg more than sixty percent of all the children in 
Primary Schools are going on to High Schools. But studies like the PISA study speak a 
different language. Our pupils do not seem to learn the right things. The question is, 
what are the "right subjects?" Knowledge itself cannot only consist of those topics 
which are interesting for the industry. Nobody in Germany can deny that there is a deep 
crisis on the educational field. Unheard of events like the killing of numerous persons: 
pupils, teachers, policemen, in Erfurt, May 2002, and other towns speak their own 
language. The atmosphere of helplessness creates a desire to find a culprit, a scapegoat. 
For some people it is the teacher who is to blame or parents who do not act like parents. 
Most Primary School teachers are female. A father's absence from the educational 
process is tolerated, since "he" has to earn money. A mother who does the same, is still 
suspected of self-realization and looked at as askance in Germany. There are still too 
few day care and youth centers, too few day schools (in this country schools start about 
8 a.m. and end about 1 p.m., apart from the final classes at High School). So it is an 
enervating business for mothers to reconcile the demands of a job with the upbringing 

PISA: Program for International Student Assessment. 


of children, and if there are failures, they can be sure to be blamed. Although in bigger 
towns single households make up more than fifty percent, we still pretend that there is 
the functioning family which has to be the model, 'functioning' meaning a mother who 
stays at home. But this is not the reality. 

Young people on the other hand have difficulties in finding a job. There are 
counties like Mecklenburg-Vorpommern which have 25 % unemployed youth, quite a 
number of them are drop-outs from school. The mixture of frustration, hatred of 
foreigners, of asylum seekers, who apparently get the better of the German social 
system and more possibilities than the natives, is highly explosive and dangerous. 
Offsprings of the former Gastarbeiter (guest workers) of the sixties are still not 
integrated anywhere. Descendants from Germans in the former Soviet Union, now 
living in Germany, still do not speak German and remain among themselves, yearning 
for Karanganda or places in Siberia where they came from. The Rhein- 
Neckar-Zeitung justly titles the same topic under "Here a social explosive is 


So there is an enormous demand for education and integration. If the government 
of whatever party is not able to solve these problems, the future will be become even 
more difficult than it is now. Then Erfurt could become a synonym for a beginning of 
the end. 

But this is only one side of the coin. For the first time there is a generation in their 
twenties which earns an enormous lot of money. Some of them are rich, because they 
belong to the first generation after World War II who inherited money. This generation 
is called the "fun generation," because their main aim in life seems to have fun. So their 


status magazine justly has the name Fit For Fun. Its message is that those who keep 

their bodies fit by working on them in the various fitness centers, who eat the right food 

(motto: because I am worth it) can expect fun from life. Fitness has replaced religion. 

Strong rules tell us if we do not shape our bodies to perfection or eat the wrong food. 

There are television cooking shows for Fit For Fun so that no one has an excuse for 

eating the wrong food. Florian lilies calls this generation the "Generation Golf," "golf," 

because of the VW cabrio "golf which the members of this class prefer. Speaking 

about the magazine Fit For Fun, lilies states: 

If there is a magazine which is only for this narcissistic generation . . . then it is 
Fit For Fun. The magazine as highly polished as the biceps of its readers 
was created in the middle of the nineties, to be exact, in 1996, when the generation 
golf left school and... pronounced the fitness- and sun studios to be their preferred 
stay. The colorful magazine does nothing else on many hundred of pages than 
telling the reader, that he[sic] justly tortures himself. Because, so every essay, 
every photo, every advertisement says, only he [sic] has fun who is fit. 74 

Nevertheless, they do not seem to be immune to sickness. So the Rhein-Neckar- 

Zeitung writes under the title: "Die 'Spafigesellschaft' macht immer offer kranK' ("The 

'fun society' takes more and more sick days") 75 and in the Siiddeutsche Zeitung Lars 

Jensen reports: "Des Lebens miide. 'Quarterlife crisis' - Die Generation der 

Uberzwanzigjahrigen ist ein bisschen zu fruh von sich selbst erschopft" ("Tired from 

Life. 'Quarterlife Crisis' - The generation of those in their twenties is a bit too early 

exhausted from itself'). 76 Jensen's study speaks about a twenty-two year old woman 

from Berlin, "who complains that she cannot manage the fact all right of getting older" 

and he comments: "In a time in which everybody wants to squeeze the maximum out of 

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, „Da ,wachst' sozialer Sprengstoff' Nr. 128, 06.06.02, 1 1 [translation 

Florian lilies, Generation Golf. Eine Inspektion (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2002), 92 
[translation mine]. 

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung Nr., 13. 


his [sic] life, the claims go up. This must have a bitter end." An explanation for this 
highly depressive behavior for Jensen is the fact that this generation "is the first age 
group which does not share memories and values. All human beings who were born 
before 1 970 had experienced political or social events which have coined them as a 
generation: an economic crisis, war, [Germany's] recovery, the students' revolt... As it 
was never necessary to be in solidarity with others in order to reach a common goal, the 
more than twenty somethings have been in solidarity with themselves [only]. The 
greatest solidarity between the children of this epoch is their huge urge for solitary 

A society which claims fun as its most important value in life cannot cope with 
disappointments and handicaps. Human beings are dependent on one another. We live 
on each other's warmth and friendliness and are lost to the same degree as we forget 
about these facts. Human beings cannot face loss and death alone by being fit. There has 
to be nourishment for the soul. 

But there seems to be a slight change, where adolescents of today are concerned. 

The Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung reports about a study, initiated by the University of Siegen: 

For forty years the influence of a personal model on adolescents was 
retrogressive - now those influences have nearly tripled by 56 percents 
in five years. . . With girls their own mothers stand up at the front as models, 
besides female singers from hit parades. . . With boys neither pop stars nor mothers 
served as models but manifold successful athletes - fathers follow at a distinct 
distance. Altogether the ten to eighteen year olds according to the research results 
are not ideological but pragmatic. Most of them have no longer anything in 
common with the former generations of protest. 77 

This can denote good news and bad news, bad news insofar as an unpolitical 

youth that claims for "private happiness, consumerism and career" [so the heading], is 

Lars Jensen, in Siiddeutsche ZeitungNr. 124. 01./02.02. SZ Wochenende V) [translation mine]. 


more susceptible to seduction and irritation in times of less economic profits. The good 
news may be that the mother/athlete-model could combine soul and body, nourishment 
and fun. But then it should not be gender oriented (the female for the soul, the male for 
the body) and so perhaps further new dichotomies. 


Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, „Privates Glttck, Konsum und Karriere sind gefragt" Nr. 129, 07.06.02, 
15 [translation mine]. 



mysticism, n : 2a: a theory of mystical knowledge: the doctrine or belief that direct knowledge 
of God, of spiritual truth, of ultimate reality, or comparable matters is attainable through 
immediate intuition, insight, or illumination and in a way differing from ordinary sense 
perception or ratiocination 

reconcile, vb: la (1): to restore to friendship, compatibility, or harmony, b: ADJUST, 

Writing for me is like weaving a carpet (may be, that this is one of the reasons 
why I am so fond of the unruly carpet- weaver Berti Bartolotti in Nostlinger's 
Konrad). The topics of the different chapters are the threads, arranged in different 
colors and different patterns. The chosen narratives, their analysis, my own stories 
(The Damsel in Distress, Anna), my autobiography, all add up to a huge carpet. Even 
my paintings are a "sort of writing" - writing in a different media. Only their structure 
is different from language. People in Medieval times who had not learned literacy 
could well "read" the frescoes in their chapels. They were familiar with biblical 
stories which always started with Adam and Eve and ended up with Christ's 
resurrection as an act of reconciliation between God and God's creation. 

My last chapter begins with a "prologue" in the first case. It is the story of 
Anna, who not only learns to read but, what is more, to ask the right questions, to 
speak up. Anna's story is linked with the Grimm's fairy tale of the Maiden Without 
Hands which explains my personal biography. This fairy tale marks "the breaking in 
of divine strengths," Dorothee Solle speaks about, 1 a feature, not uncommon in fairy 
tales but strongly objected to in the reality of our days. Solle' s chapter "Childhood 

Dorothee Solle, Und ist noch nicht erschienen, 1 1 8. 


Mysticism" opposes this antipathy and shows the dangers when we neglect the forces 
of mysticism. 

In the second case this last chapter consists of a final "conclusion," which once 
more brings together the different strands of this thesis: firstly, storytelling as an act 
of overcoming boundaries, secondly storytelling as the healing of wounds and the 
establishing of democracy and civilization, and thirdly storytelling as an act of 
reconciliation, thus embracing our own roots. 

Anna Learns to Read 

Today it is the first day of school - at last! The children form a circle in the 
twilight of the fall afternoon and all of them sing: "Lofty night of the clear stars." 
Torches are burning. Anna presses her school bag close to her. Although her bag is 
smaller than those of the others, it is blue, and blue is Anna's favorite color. Will she 
be allowed to join in the song? She knows that her mother does not like it. Why is that 
so? It is about stars and she never forbade her to sing "Do you know, how many little 
stars are in the blue vault of heaven?" But had not her distant father written into 
Anna's little book of poetry: "Above all, my child, be faithful and truthful. Never let a 
lie desecrate your mouth"? No, Anna did not want to tell a lie and so she decides to 
hum the melody but not to sing the song. Meanwhile lessons start. Anna is in Frau 
Benedikt" s class, together with forty boys and girls. Frau Benedikt is a supply teacher. 
Anna can understand this very well as Frau Benedikt has a huge supply of support and 
cheerfulness. Sometimes she escorts Anna home, if Anna cannot help but scream 
when the sirens wail. Frau Benedikt has conquered Anna's heart by an apple tree. The 

A Nazi sons 



tree is painted on the board. It stands for an "A." Anna loves apples. Their names 
alone sound so special: autumn reinette, beautiful of boskoop, cox orange, yellow 
bellefleur, morning fragrance. All of them grow in the huge garden of her grandfather, 
and sometimes, when Anna had particularly red cheeks, grandfather had called her 
"little borsdorfer," because the borsdorfer is a particularly red apple. That had been in 
those times when her grandfather had been happy. But now, as uncle Hans, 
grandfather's favorite son, was dead, grandfather only had a petrified face. "Fallen in 
the field," 4 they had told her. But could one die of falling? And should not it be 
"Fallen on the field?" Anna is perplexed. Now it is as if someone had switched off the 
sun. One had to be silent; even her mother was not longer allowed to play her pearly 
chords on the piano. No, the piano was draped by a heavy, black cloth, and no one 
was allowed to sing any more. 

The noise, deep, humming, getting louder and louder, within the next minutes 
the head will explode, now, now, the abyss opens, scream, scream, scream, until 
nothing remains of you, everything burst, exploded, shredded, slivered, splintered - 

Haifa year later, Fraulein Heydenreich took over the class. Frau Benedikt had 
to go. It is peace now and in times of peace supply teachers are not needed any longer. 
Fraulein Heydenreich is always dressed in deepest black. She loses no time and 
abundantly deals out slaps. At present they read Little Hans in the Stork's Nest, and 
woe to those children who do not put their fingers under that word which is just read! 

In Germany children get school bags, filled with sweets for their enrollment. 
'Gefallen' in German means 'killed in action' or 'fallen'. 


Why do grandfather and mother call Fraulein Heydenreich a "narcissus?" 5 Anna does 
not understand what the dour, sombre teacher and the wonderful delicate flowers have 
in common, which gently rock in the garden in the wind. 

They have learned a new poem, a spring poem, so Fraulein Heydenreich says. 
The sparrows described in it give notice to a penny-pinching farmer and leave his 
house. Anna liked that. On her way home she is on her own. Nobody from Anna's 
class lives along her path of hedges. She notices the big icicles at Petermann's house, 
and the piles of snow along the main street. She hears the birds which quarrel about 
bread crumbs, she feels the long missed warm rays of sun on her skin, and suddenly 
she knows: This is exactly as it is described in the newly learned poem: 

Sun shines, from all the roofs 
Snow is dropping lustily; 
Outside on the fence 
We rub our beaks 

Enchanted Anna stops. How is it possible that someone can write a poem and be dead 

like this Herr von Eichendorff, the poem's author? How can he describe what Anna 

experiences just now? How is that possible? 

Immaculate blue sky, spanned from East to West in one pure bow, the snow- 
covered plateau sunlit by a serene winter sun. Little fir trees, changed into clumsy 
little ice bears, finches, on the higher branches bullfinches with their beautiful 
majestic coloring of black and red. Suddenly a muffled booming, nearer and nearer. 
Her mother abruptly turning pale. Hands which drag one between the little trees, 
press one to the ground, keep one 's mouth shut. Aeroplanes, elegantly glistening in 

The German word "Narzisse" (narcissus) is similar to "Nazisse," a colloquial term for 
followers of the Nazi regime. 


silver, deeper and deeper their flight, inside young and laughing faces, knights from a 
different star. 

Sometimes, if Anna promises to behave extremely well, she is allowed to visit 
Frau Paulsen who lives on the first floor. It is true that Anna is a bit afraid of Frau 
Paulsen, because she rolls majestically along like a queen and can become rather grim 
if she is of the opinion that Anna was too noisy on the black and white staircase 
outside the apartments or did not keep the hours of rest at noon. But Frau Paulsen 
possesses a treasure: many, many books of fairy tales with colored pictures which 
Anna cannot have enough of. Today Anna sits in Frau Paulsen's kitchen. She has 
taken a fancy to this enormous room. It is kept in black and white, the floor has a 
pattern of black and white tiles and is bordered with "exclamation marks." So at least 
it looks like to Anna. She is given the purple leather cushion and an enormous book. 
At this time she can decipher the title herself: The Story of Caliph Stork 6 The world 
rotates around Anna. She, who is familiar with the neighboring villages at most, 
strolls about the market of Baghdad, catches glimpses of fruits, the form, color and 
smell of which she never perceived before. She passes houses with rich, strange 
ornaments, not equalled by anything in the austere half-timbered buildings of her little 
town. She sinks into an unknown world and reads and reads. 

Moonlit path through the forest... deep, black... silent, up hill and down 
dale... three castles at the end... the one in the middle sneers emptily... the right one in 
deep shadow, so it will have to be the left one... behind heavy gates, metal-mounted, 
serpents... serpents, wriggling in clusters... in the middle, highly majestic, Medusa's 
head... a ghastly smile... contemptuous, arms entwine the hands, the body... gently the 


throat, very softly the throat... the scream suffocates, implodes, even before it comes 
into existence. 

Today it is the first day after the Easter holidays, which are rather late this 
year. Fraulein Heydenreich expects that the children report about their holiday events. 
"Preparing an essay," she calls it. But Anna has the feeling that Fraulein Heydenreich 
far more wants to pump the children for information. Usually Anna does not like to 
narrate, but today it is different. Filled with enthusiasm she reports about the lovely 
Easter excursion to the cuckoo meadow. Grandfather had taken the lead, and then 
here and there something was shining in the fresh leaf green of the hedges or in the 
young grass. Easter eggs which Anna, giving sharp little cries of excitement had 
collected. On their way they had passed a sort of garden. Anna had been amazed to 
find a garden among meadows and so far away from anywhere. It had been 
surrounded by a high and thick blackthorn hedge, about as round as a circle and 
without any entrance. The first violets and Anna's so beloved pale-yellow primroses 
already grew at the bottom of the hedge. When Anna mentions the mysterious garden, 
Fraulein Heydenreich interrupts her brusquely: "It's the old Jewish cemetery. So it 
has grown wild, hasn't it?" She sneers. Anna cannot continue reporting about the first 
larks which carolled high in the air, about the hundreds and hundreds of primroses on 
the cuckoo meadow. Who were "Jews?" Why had not they been buried on the 
cemetery behind the red brick church in the middle of the little town? And why did 
Fraulein Heydenreich speak so sneeringly? If Anna only could ask mother! But 
mother did not feel well. She still had not got any news from Anna's absent father. 

Wilhelm Hauff. Die Karawane: Die Geschichte von KalifStorch (Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 
1987), 27f. 


From day to day she looked paler and more exhausted. "Hush, be quiet, control 
yourself," Anna was often told these days, "your mother has taken a nap!" Anna's 
nights became leaden. 

The water hole: black sucking, bubbling, ...otherwise - silence. No bird comes 
here, no little animal scampers around. Sluggish and brooding the air. There, mud 
flies from the hole. Frog hands grab into the emptiness. The water sprite, the water 
sprite! Now he grasps well-calculatedly, pulls and pulls. No scream will loosen, 
rattling, choking, the end. 

Anna is on her way back home. An old stooped man addresses her and points 

to the house of Anna's family. "Do you know who now owns that house?" As a 

matter of fact Anna is strictly forbidden to speak to strangers. And particularly strictly 

forbidden is to ask the many foreign soldiers, who now buzz around the little town: 

"Have you chocolate [sic!]?" This means begging, Anna's mother had explained. But 

to tell the old man that the house belonged to grandfather and father will probably be 

allowed to her. "I laid the tiles in this house," so the old man tells her. Anna is 

delighted. Finally she knows who laid the beautiful border of "exclamation marks." 

"Formerly the house belonged to Jewish merchants, but they were forced to leave for 

South America," continues the old man. And then he goes away. Anna remains 

bewildered. Again "Jews," and why did they have to leave? This time Anna decides to 

act. She returns and chases back into the town center. In front of Frau Westermann's 

book store she stops breathlessly. Astonished Frau Westermann looks at the little, 

flushed girl in her blue dress with the thick brown plait, who now seriously stands 

before her counter. "Do you have a book about Jews?" Anna asks. Anna has learned 

to read. 


In many aspects Anna's story is my own story, her nightmares are mine. Like 
Anna I was and am on a search for truth. Like her I wanted to know about the history 
of my people some fifty years ago. Being the daughter of a Nazi judge I always felt 
guilty towards Jews. I learned about them at an exchange visit to the Netherlands, 
when I was thirteen years old. Until then the term "Jew" had never been used in my 
family. There was a silent agreement that we never discussed the war and anything 
related to it at home. When I found out about what the German Nazis had done to 
their own people, the German Jews, and other Jews and people whom they had termed 
to be "non- Aryan," it left me horrified, but there was nobody with whom I could 
speak about it. 

It widened the already existing gap in the relationship with my father. He had 
returned disillusioned and broken from a POW's camp near Dallas after the surrender, 
which he had only been able to survive by the help of people of color. So I was 
brought up with a deep respect for African Americans in particular. When in 1998 my 
mother died, I was given all the personal papers of my father's denazification. During 
the years of adolescence and as an adult I had taken the easy way and despised my 
father for being a Nazi. In these papers I found a different story: It had been officially 
acknowledged that my father had risked his own life, because he wanted to have a fair 
trial for members of the Socialist Party. He was beaten by his own party to give him 
an effective warning. So he lived with a broken nose all his life. The other thing I 
found out was that he had refused to take over a court martial. As a punishment he 
had been sent to the war on its very first day. So I grew up with a father nearly always 
absent and later on missing in action. 


Had I been too rash in judging my father? But there was the poem still: 

Above all my child, be faithful and truthful, 
Never let a lie desecrate your mouth, 

which my father had written to me. However, it has a continuation: 

From time immemorial it was the highest fame of the German people 
To be faithful and truthful. 

My father wrote it into my little book of poetry in 1949, after his return from 
the war. Did he think that this poem appeals to a heroic quality inherent in German 
nature? Is it then a Nazi poem? Did my father's justice only concern non-Jews? I will 
never find out about that. My father has been dead for twenty years. 

Do his lines express wishful thinking, written by someone who was deeply 
shaken in his beliefs and now hoped that his little daughter might succeed where he 
failed? Is this text in its essence then a "text of terror" in disguise? 

"To tell and hear tales of terror is to wrestle demons in the night, without a 
compassionate God to save us . . . The fight itself is solitary and intense," so Phyllis 
Trible writes. Do Anna's and my nightmares about choking and suppressed screams 
find their final explanation in this poem, handed over by an untruthful father to a 
daughter he thus swears to truthfulness? Was I another Maiden Without Hands? 8 

The Maiden Without Hands 

A miller had been falling little by little into poverty, and soon he had nothing 
left but his mill and a large apple tree behind it. One day, as he was on his way to 
chop wood in the forest, he met an old man whom he had never seen before. 

"There's no reason you have to torture yourself by cutting wood," the old man 
said. "I'll make you rich if you promise to give me what's behind your mill." 

Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives 
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 4. 

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, trans, by Jack Zipes (The Maiden Without 
Hands) vol. I (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), 128-133. 


What else can that be but my apple tree, thought the miller, and he gave the 
stranger his promise in writing. 

"In three years I'll come and fetch what's mine," the stranger said with a snide 
laugh, and he went away. 

When the miller returned home, his wife went out to meet him and said, "Tell 
me, miller how did all this wealth suddenly get into our house? All at once I've 
discovered our chests and boxes are full. Nobody's brought anything, and I don't 
know how it's all happened." 

"It's from a stranger I met in the forest," he said. "He promised me great 
wealth if I agreed in writing to give him what's behind our mill. We can certainly 
spare the large apple tree." 

"Oh; husband!" his wife exclaimed in dread. "That was the devil! He didn't 
mean the apple tree but our daughter, who was behind the mill sweeping out the 

The miller's daughter was a beautiful and pious maiden who went through the 
next three years in fear of God and without sin. When the time was up and the day 
came for the devil to fetch her, she washed herself clean and drew a circle around her 
with chalk. The devil appeared quite early, but he could not get near her, and he said 
angrily to the miller, "I want you to take all the water away from her so she can't 
wash herself anymore. Otherwise, I have no power over her." 

Since the miller was afraid of the devil, he did as he was told. The next 
morning the devil came again, but she wept on her hands and made them completely 
clean. Once more he could not get near her and said furiously to the miller, "Chop off 
her hands. Otherwise, I can't touch her." 

The miller was horrified and replied, "How can I chop off the hands of my 
own child!" 

But the devil threatened him and said, "If you don't do it, you're mine, and I'll come 
and get you myself!" 

The father was so scared of him that he promised to obey. He went to his 
daughter and said, "My child, if I don't chop off both your hands, the devil will take 
me away, and in my fear I promised I'd do it. Please help me out of my dilemma and 
forgive me for the injury I'm causing you." 

"Dear Father," she answered, "do what you want with me. I'm your child." 
Then she extended both her hands and let him chop them off. The devil came a third 
time, but she had wept so long and so much on the stumps that they too were all clean. 
Then he had to abandon his game and lost all claim to her. 

Now the miller said to his daughter, "I've become so wealthy because of you 
that I shall see to it you'll live in splendor for the rest of your life." 

But she answered, "No, I cannot stay here. I'm going away and shall depend 
on the kindness of people to provide me with whatever I need." 

Then she had her maimed arms bound to her back, and at dawn she set out on 
her way and walked the entire day until it became dark. She was right outside a royal 
garden, and by the glimmer of the moon she could see trees full of beautiful fruit. She 
could not enter the garden, though because it was surrounded by water. Since she had 
traveled the entire day without eating, she was very hungry. Oh, if only I could get in! 
she thought. I must eat some of the fruit or else I'll perish! Then she fell to her knees, 
called out to the Lord, and prayed. Suddenly an angel appeared who closed one of the 


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locks in the stream so that the moat became dry and she could walk through it. Now 
she went into the garden accompanied by the angel. She caught sight of a beautiful 
tree full of pears, but the pears had all been counted. Nonetheless, she approached the 
tree and ate one of the pears with her mouth to satisfy her hunger, but only this one. 
The gardener was watching her, but since the angel was standing there, he was afraid, 
especially since he thought the maiden was a spirit. He kept still and did not dare to 
cry out or speak to her. After she had eaten the pear, and her hunger was stilled, she 
went and hid in the bushes. 

The next morning the king who owned the garden came and counted the pears. 
When he saw one was missing, he asked the gardener what had happened to it, for the 
pear was not lying under the tree and had somehow vanished. 

"Last night a spirit appeared," answered the gardener. "It had no hands and ate 
one of the pears with its mouth." 

"How did the spirit get over the water?" asked the king. "And where did it go 
after it ate the pear?" 

"Someone wearing a garment as white as snow came down from heaven, 
closed the lock, and dammed up the water so the spirit could walk through the moat. 
And, since it must have been an angel, I was afraid to ask any questions or to cry out. 
After the spirit had eaten the pear, it just went away." 

"If it's as you say," said the king, "I shall spend the night with you and keep 

When it became dark, the king went into the garden and brought a priest with 
him to talk to the spirit. All three sat down beneath the tree and kept watch. At 
midnight the maiden came out of the bushes, walked over to the tree, and once again 
ate one of the pears with her mouth, while the angel in white stood next to her. The 
priest stepped forward and said to the maiden, "Have you come from heaven or from 
earth? Are you a spirit or a human being?" 

"I'm not a spirit, but a poor creature forsaken by everyone except God." 

"You may be forsaken by the whole world, but I shall not forsake you," said 
the king. 

He took her with him to his royal palace, and since she was so beautiful and 
good, he loved her with all his heart, had silver hands made for her, and took her for 
his wife. 

After a year had passed, the king had to go to war, and he placed the young 
queen under the dare of his mother and said, "If she has a child, I want you to protect 
her and take good care of her, and write me right away." 

Soon after, the young queen gave birth to a fine-looking boy. The king's 
mother wrote to him immediately to announce the joyful news. However, on the way 
the messenger stopped to rest near a brook, and since he was exhausted from the long 
journey, he fell asleep. Then the devil appeared. He was still trying to harm the pious 
queen, and so he exchanged the letter for another one that said that the queen had 
given birth to a changeling. When the king read the letter, he was horrified and quite 
distressed, but he wrote his mother that she should protect the queen and take care of 
her until his return. The messenger started back with the letter, but he stopped to rest 
at the same spot and fell asleep. Once again the devil came and put a different letter in 
his pocket that said that they should kill the queen and her child. The old mother was 
tremendously disturbed when she received the letter and could not believe it. She 


wrote the king again but received the same answer because the devil kept replacing 
the messenger's letters with false letters each time. The last letter ordered the king's 
mother to keep the tongue and eyes of the queen as proof that she had done his 

But the old woman wept at the thought of shedding such innocent blood. 
During the night she had a doe fetched and cut out its tongue and eyes and put them 
away. Then she said to the queen, "I can't let you be killed as the king commands. 
However, you can't stay here any longer. Go out into the wide world with your child 
and never come back." 

She tied the child to the queen's back, and the poor woman went off with tears 
in her eyes. When she came to a great wild forest, she fell down on her knees and 
prayed to God. The Lord's angel appeared before her and led her to a small cottage 
with a little sign saying "Free Lodging for Everyone." A maiden wearing a snow 
white garment came out of the cottage and said, "Welcome, Your Highness," and took 
her inside. She untied the little boy from her back and offered him her breast so he 
could have something to drink. Then she laid him down in a beautifully made bed. 

"How did you know that I'm a queen?" asked the poor woman. 

"I'm an angel sent by God to take care of you and your child," replied the 
maiden in white. So the queen stayed seven years in the cottage and was well cared 
for. By the grace of God and through her own piety her hands that had been chopped 
off grew back again. 

When the king finally returned from the wars, the first thing he wanted to do 
was to see his wife and child. However, his old mother began to weep and said, "You 
wicked man, why did you write and order me to kill two innocent souls?" She showed 
him the two letters that the devil had forged and resumed talking. "I did as you 
ordered," and displayed the tongue and eyes. 

At the sight of them the king burst into tears and wept bitterly over his poor 
wife and little son. His old mother was aroused and took pity on him. 

"Console yourself," she said. "She's still alive. I secretly had a doe killed and 
kept its tongue and eyes as proof. Then I took the child and tied him to your wife's 
back and ordered her to go out into the wide world, and she had to promise me never 
to return here because you were so angry with her." 

"I shall go as far as the sky is blue, without eating or drinking, until I find my 
dear wife and child," the king said. "That is, unless they have been killed or have died 
of hunger in the meantime." 

The king wandered for about seven years and searched every rocky cliff and 
cave he came across. When he did not find her, he thought she had perished. During 
this time he neither ate nor drank, but God kept him alive. Eventually, he came to a 
great forest, where he discovered the little cottage with the sign "Free Lodging for 
Everyone." Then the maiden in white came out, took him by the hand, and led him 

"Welcome, Your Majesty," she said, and asked him where he came from. 

"I've been wandering about for almost seven years looking for my wife and 
child, but I can't find them." 

The angel offered him food and drink, but he refused and said he only wanted 
to rest awhile. So he lay down to sleep and covered his face with a handkerchief. Then 
the angel went into the room where the queen was sitting with her son, whom she was 


accustomed to calling Sorrowful, and said, "Go into the next room with your child. 
Your husband has come." 

So the queen went to the room where he was lying, and the handkerchief fell 
from his face. 

"Sorrowful," she said, "pick up your father's handkerchief and put it over his 
face again." 

The child picked the handkerchief up and put it over his face. The king heard 
all this in his sleep and took pleasure in making the handkerchief drop on the floor 
again. The boy became impatient and said, "Dear Mother, how can I cover my 
father's face when I have no father on earth. I've learned to pray to 'our Father that art 
in heaven,' and you told me that my father was in heaven and that he was our good 
Lord. How am I supposed to recognize this wild man? He's not my father." 

When the king heard this, he sat up and asked her who she was. 
"I'm your wife," she replied, "and this is your son, Sorrowful." 

When the king saw that she had real hands, he said, "My wife had silver 

"Our merciful Lord let my natural hands grow again," she answered. 
The angel went back to the sitting room, fetched the silver hands, and showed them to 
him. Now he knew for certain that it was his dear wife and dear son, and he kissed 
them and was happy. 

"A heavy load has been taken off my mind," he said. 

After the Lord's angel ate one more meal with them, they went home to be 
with the king's old mother. There was rejoicing everywhere, and the king and queen 
had a second wedding and lived happily ever after. 

Shortly before my first academic year in the USA ended, the school's program 
assistant gave me a book, because she knew I loved fairy tales and came from a 
country of fairy tales. I had no idea what it was about and certainly no idea how very 
important this book should become to me. It was Gertrud Mueller Nelson's book Here 
All Dwell Free: Stories to Heal the Wounded Feminine : 9 At that time, my days were 
crammed full with academic work and I very much doubted that I would be able to 
read its 356 pages before returning to Germany. But I was curious and started reading 
the Grimm's fairy tale of The Handless Maiden. I sat glued to it for three days and 
nights and then knew that this story was my story. I found myself in the obedient 
daughter, with a father who had made a pact with the devil - like my father with the 

Gertrud Mueller Nelson, Here All Dwell Free (New York: Paulist Press, 1999). 


Nazis. It dawned upon me that I had been deeply wounded by a father who sometimes 
did not speak to his family for days, who never expressed positive emotions, of whom 
I was terrified because of his fits of a cold, sarcastic, and at times even sadistic 
behavior. All I had learned was to be always on the alert, to make myself invisible. I 
had spent a vast amount of time in my youth hiding in attics, reading or sitting on our 
enormous yew trees, where nobody could observe me. But nevertheless I still pitied 
my father and saw him as a broken man, a victim. 

After 1 1 September 2001, all my old war memories were stirred, when I 
looked at the collapsing twin towers of the World Trade Center. I suddenly saw the 
burning houses of my native town of Hannover, which had been destroyed to four- 
fifths. I heard the wails of the sirens which I cannot bear to this day. I smelled the 
ashes, I listened to the screams of people who panicked. Again, I had become the little 
girl who sat in the basement, scolded because she could not control her screaming and 
did not "keep countenance." So, here was the origin of my suffocated nightly screams. 

After 1 1 September, I could not write a single sentence. Similar to the female 
protagonist in Christa Wolfs novel Leibhaftig {Incarnate) 1 who experiences the 
collapse of the former GDR on her own body, I myself was in a sort of shock. I 
suffered from writing block, and it dawned upon me that I needed professional help. 
So I looked for it. My topic: the "distant" father and what he stood for, war. What had 
happened to the Handless Maiden was happening to me. As she had to loose her 
substitute hands of silver, the hands of convention, so I had to give up the role of a 
daughter who always wanted to see the best in everybody and his or her actions, 
above all in her own father. I had to acknowledge that evil exists, that it cannot be 

Christa Wolf, Leibhaftig (Munchen: Luchterhand 2002). 


hushed up or appeased. Nazi ideas are evil, wherever they were, are, and will be 
taught. Gertrud Mueller Nelson calls this act of acknowledgment a "transformation 
through disenchantment," and continues: "Disenchantment breaks an old spell or 
possession." 1 1 I was claimed by a bond of faithfulness to a father, who although a 
judge himself, did not do justice to truthfulness. I became free from it by writing 
about it, by making the story public, something I had never intended to do. This does 
not mean that I cannot mourn a relationship which could have based on equality, truth 
and love. 

"Our merciful Lord let my natural hands grow again," so the Handless Maiden 
speaks. The fairy tale leaves no doubt about the origin of the transformation: it is 
"God's grace." To cover thousands of miles in order to come across the message of 
the Maiden Without Hands - is this to be called sheer coincidence or God's guidance 
and grace? Or is it what Dorothee Solle describes as "the breaking in of divine 
strengths into human reality?" 

Dorothee Solle Mystik und Widerstand (The Silent Cry. Mysticism and Resistance) 

In my introductory chapter I cited Dorothee Solle' s underlining of the 
"academization of theology," thus stripping theology of its "substantiality." For Solle 
"[i]n the crisis of science. . .the question for myth is put anew, is myth - the history of 
the breaking in of divine strengths into human reality - necessary in order to express 
the future or even a hope for the world?" 13 In our world of rationalization we try to 


Mueller Nelson. 




Und ist noch nicht erschienen, 






keep low those forces which hinder us to control ourselves and others. Ungovernable 

"divine strengths" certainly belong into this category. They could inflame unruly 

ideas about a different and more just world, where the poor are provided, wars 

stigmatized, the needy ones, children in particular, are cared for. They could activate 

resistance against an ossified reality which by no means is interested in a change of 

the status quo. Mysticism seems to be out of date, with regard to its contents. It is 

therefore astonishing to find a book with the title Mystik und Widerstand (Mysticism 

and Resistance). In this book Dorothee Solle speaks about "mysticism of childhood," 

a phrase which will help to retrace the various steps in all the different childhood or 

adolescents' stories I went through. The notion of mysticism in this last chapter 

connects us with what is essential in life - at least to my belief. Solle describes 

cultures like that of the American Indians, in which the "cry for a vision" forms the 

center, or which "has a high regard for dreams that grows with an educational process 

for taking dreams seriously." 14 

Our Western tradition, which after the Age of Enlightenment relies 

predominantly on reason, and has forgotten these old values, minimized or ridiculed 

them as childish: 

[D]reams are the concern of one's psychotherapist and the ideas of a different 
life belong to the private sphere ...the inner light is rationalized away. It is so 
easy to douse the inner light of a human being. And we busily assist in doing 
just that as we learn to make the world's efficiency our own. We cut ourselves 
off from our own experiences by looking upon them as irrelevant and not 
worth talking about or, what is not less cynical, not communicable at all. We 
are losing our dreams, those of the night and those of the day, and increasingly 
we lose the visions of our life. 15 

Dorothee Solle, Mystik und Widerstand. »Du stilles Geschrei» (Hamburg: Hoffmann und 
Campe, 1998), 27. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance, trans, by Barbara and Martin Rumscheidt 
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), lOf. 


Stimulated by Solle, I tried to trace my own experiences with a reality beyond 
the generally approved one. I had found my personal roots already in my first year in 
America. I come from Lower Saxony, from the Weserbergland, an area in Germany 
where Grimm's Fairy Tales were collected, and so it was quite natural that I was 
brought up with them as so many other of my compatriots. But like them, I soon 
learned that these tales were for children only. On our campus in Cambridge I made 
the acquaintance of a little boy, aged five. When I asked for his name, he told me to 
follow him. He knelt in front of a snow heap and whispered his name into it. When at 
first I did not understand, he repeated the whole ritual, this time telling me "that the 
name has to be kept secret." I was delighted by this little boy's wisdom, although he 
probably was not brought up with the story of Rumpelstiltskin who "ripped himself in 
two" when his name became known. Many cultures have the tradition that your real 
name must only be known to intimate friends. This little boy had that age-old 

In fairy tales, speaking to animals or flowers is quite normal. They are 
messengers of a wisdom and a truth we have long lost and forgotten. But sometimes 
they reach us, and for the twinkling of an eye they show us the "other" reality, which 
is hidden behind ours, drifting apart like Avalon and the "real world." It happened to 
me on a tour through Greece in 1 999 in Olympia. It was noon and although only May, 
rather hot. Nevertheless, I went about on my own, determined to make my own 
discoveries. And so I did. I found a very old wall made of tiles that were arranged in a 
sort of a cable stitch pattern. You could not detect it on first sight, since it was heavily 


Ibid., 14. Original text, 31. 

For example the Anandilyagwa Australian Aborigines of Groote Eylandt Northern Territories, 

Australia. I am indebted for this to Katherine Firth, Melbourne. 


covered by small white roses, entwined with ivy. Here it happened. As I stood there 
gazing I heard a small noise and something moving. It was a lizard that came out of 
the masses of ivy, overtook me and then turned round. Neither of us moved, but we 
looked at each other. The lizard's gaze seemed to comprise the wisdom of millenia, 
and I had the feeling that I had known her forever. Curiously, I could and can only 
think of the animal in terms of "her." For several minutes we stood there, fellow 
creatures, and I felt strangely soothed, accepted, and sorry when the lizard left. 

The yearning to understand the language of the non-human creation has 
accompanied me from my early childhood, and I always felt attracted by people for 
whom this seemed to be a matter of fact. My mother's friend Elisabeth, an extremely 
shy but highly gifted sculptor, one day surprised me by telling me that she could 
speak "owlish." I accompanied her back home late at night in June, when she started 
making noises I had never heard before. After a short time an owl sailed on top of us 
and accompanied us until we had reached Elisabeth's house. Of course she spoke to 
her plants as well, and I am sure that in the Middle Ages she would have been burnt at 
the stake. 

Another experience of a reality beyond which showed me the unity between 
heaven and earth and a world-in-between, took place in Great Britain one summer. It 
was a moonlit night and I woke up because of an unfamiliar noise. So I left my room, 
crept out to the small terrace of the little cottage we had rented. The view was 
breathtaking: the large garden on the slopes of the Shelsley valley was full of apple 
trees. Among them the neighbor's ponies munched their grass. The moon light was 
not harsh, but a very soft and diffused light. For the first time I understood the 
opening bars of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's overture A Midsummer Night 's Dream. To 


me, they expressed exactly the diffusion I saw. There was an inexplicable peace and 
an enchantment beyond words. I would not have been astonished had I seen fairies. 
Shakespeare must have known about this, when, in Romeo and Juliet, he lets 
Mercutio answer Romeo, who just had had a dream: "...I see Queen Mab hath been 
with you./ She is the fairies' midwife/ .. she gallops night by night/ Through lovers' 
brains, and then they dream of love/. . .This is that very Mab/ That plats the manes of 
horses in the night/" (Act I, scene IV). The Irish have Mab (Medb) for their fairy 
queen, and the Welsh word for child or baby is "mab," 17 so dreams (although not 
always pleasant ones, as Shakespeare's whimsical Mab demonstrates) and children 
seem to belong together. Only we adults have forgotten it. 

The attempts to retrace my own pattern of a different life, the "inner light," as 
Solle calls it, brings me back to the year 1994. My late friend Sibylle, a biologist, who 
wanted to re-establish the values of the Knights Templar (like truth, integrity, 
generosity), invited me to her hunting lodge in the mountains shortly before her death. 
It was to be our farewell for ever. There, in the complete solitude of the Alps, we 
stayed with only her aged housekeeper. Whenever Sibylle' s strength permitted it, we 
walked the short distance to a mountain brook "to pay our respect to the angel of the 
brook," as she put it. We passed the huge, ancient fir trees which she addressed as the 
"watchmen," and at night owls hooted softly around the house. Although we all knew 
Sibylle would die soon, these days were filled with a perfect peace, where nature and 
humans lived in harmony. 

Encyclopaedia Bhtannica, 15 th edition, Chicago 1993, vol. 7, 599. 1 am indebted for this to my 
daughter Eva Christina. 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's poem Erlkonig (erlking) is another proof. The father 
apparently does not dispose of that knowledge his son has. When the adult asks the boy what he is 
afraid of, he answers: "Don't you see the erlking?" But the father provides him with a 'realistic' 


Corvey Benedictine Abbey, 822 

But there were other manifestations of this "inner light" or the "breaking in of 
divine strengths into human reality" as well. When in 1998 my mother died, I stepped 
onto the small balcony of her room in the clinic. I was able to see the towers of the 
former Benedictine abbey of Corvey, one of the earliest settlements of Christianity in 
Northern Germany (founded in 822). Dark clouds were scurrying over the valley of 
the river Weser, adding to the atmosphere of misery and loss. Suddenly the clouds 

answer: "My son, this is a band of fog" and is unable to see the deadly danger. Beate Pinkerneil, Das 
grofie deutsche Balladenbuch (Konigstein/Ts.: Athenaum, 1978), 91. 


dispersed for a moment, the sun came through and deep inside me I heard the words 
once spoken to Joshua (1 :5): "I will not fail you or forsake you." As the daughter of a 
mother educated by the Moravian Brothers, I was used to live with the set text for the 
day, but I had never had such an experience before. Someone or something had 
spoken inside me. 

The same happened when I had decided to go to America, although deeply 
uncertain about this step. A friend of mine had given me a postcard with an Isaiah-text 
earlier that year. However, this friend had not the smallest idea of what I intended to 
do, not even that I had applied to a college in the USA. Her text (Isaiah 43:16.18) 
"Thus says the LORD,/who makes a way in the sea,/ a path in the mighty waters,/ Do 
not remember the former things,/ or consider the things of old./ 1 am about to do a 
new thing;/ now it springs forth, do you not/ perceive it?" accompanied me when I 
had to cross the Atlantic, the "mighty waters." On the third evening after I had 
arrived, I was asked whether I would like to read a text in the evening service. I was 
given two texts. One of them was the Isaiah-text. Mere accident? Or is it what Solle 
calls the goal of her writing: "to bring back the experience of the unknown life as 
something that was stolen from us before we were even born. I do not to submit 
absolutely to the coercion of modernity, which Max Weber referred to as the 
'disenchantment of the world' and, correspondingly, elevate science to the level of a 
totalitarian deity next to which we are to have no other Gods." 19 

In my country you can discuss your most private, even intimate, experiences 
on daytime television. But you certainly cannot speak about your experiences with 
God. That is supposed to be almost obscene, and at best people will suspect you of 

19 Ibid., 17. Original text, 35. 


narrow fundamentalism. When you are a woman, allowances are made for, one of the 
rare occasions, when this happens. To believe in God, to tell stories, is still considered 
to be a woman's domain, but definitely not to be taken seriously. As SoTle stresses, 
"[t]he trivialization of women exists as an ongoing malevolent belittling: whatever is 
consistently and without opposition declared to be irrelevant - like so much that 
women experience, feel, and come to know - loses its language; perhaps it may echo 
for a while within a person, but it creates no response." 20 

In many respects women and children are seen on the same level: Their 
experiences can be dismissed as insignificant. This attitude is only surpassed by the 
treatment of mentally ill people. 

From September 2001 until March 2002 a "museum of its own and in a 
different way" - so the official text of the program - opened in Heidelberg. It was the 
collection of the psychiatrist Prinzhorn (1886-1933). He had collected those 
paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other objects by which his patients had expressed 
themselves. By taking these objects seriously (which a number of his colleagues did 
not. On the contrary, this type of art was used to discriminate famous artists as 
"degenerated" in Nazi Germany by contrasting their pieces of art to that of the 
"lunatics"" 2 ) he saved them. In the "Long Night of Museums" in 2002 the 
"composition for hearing" by the Swiss composer Patricia Jiinger, Sehr geehrter Herr 
- ein Requiem (Honored Sir - A Requiem) was performed to "enhance and heighten 
the experience of the exhibited works" [translation mine], meaning the Prinzhorn 
objects. I cite from the official program: This 

20 Ibid., 13. Original text, 30f. 

The Prinzhorn Collection was to be seen in New York and in Los Angeles in 2000. 
22 http: // 12/8/2002. 


"composition for hearing" is dedicated to the first Swiss female jurist Dr. 
Emily Kempin-Spyri (1853-1901) who fought through out all her life to be 
acknowledged at the law court as a woman and to be approved of as an 
attorney. In 1 899 she was taken to the asylum Friedrichsmatt in Basel. The 
initiatory material for the composition for hearing is a letter by which the jurist 
with a doctor's degree applied to a pastor for the position of a 
housekeeper... The letter is an example for a female life, confronted with 
mechanisms of expulsion and elimination. The anxieties resulting from this 
insult are usually presented as irrationally or hysterically -'insane'. The goal 
of the composition for hearing is to demonstrate the protest as a response to a 
reality into which women have to fit their lives, [translation mine] 

"Sehr geehrter Herr" is the opening of the letter which Emily Kempin-Spyri 
wrote in December 1 899, when she lived in the Basel asylum. It is a clear and very 
rational letter, written by a woman who by no means had any illusions about her 
situation: "I am completely destitute and living alone. My husband separated from me 
years ago, my children are scattered around the world, my relations to friends and 
relatives are cut short. The latter turned their backs on me already fifteen years ago 
because of my studying law." Of course she does not get the position. As I have 
shown in "Eros and Sexuality in Nineteenth Century Germany," she will die in the 
Basel asylum. The mechanisms of belittling or - as Solle put it - "trivialization" 
worked on her. Despite her brilliant gifts Emily Kempin-Spyri had no chance because 
of the simple fact that she was a woman. In a century where Elsli {Gritli 's Kinder) 
had to be content with a better place in heaven, where a Heidi was given no education 
beyond literacy, where little Marie (Die kleine Jungerin) was to die as a true disciple 
of Jesus, where the Silly Teenagers were married as soon as possible to enable the 
picture of the safe little woman, Emily Kempin-Spyri was an alien element. Women 
like her disturbed that portrait. What would happen if women like her sort became the 


standard? Her life even includes the biblical dimension of a father-daughter-conflict, 
the question of obedience. As the biblical Eve offends God's commandment, so does 
Emily, because she marries against her father's, the pastor's, wishes. And the craving 
for knowledge which is inherent in both females has certainly not furthered their 
positions in life. Emily Kempin-Spyri lived in the 19 century, but the program-text 
of the "composition for hearing" was written in 2002 and speaks about a "protest as 
the response to a reality into which women have to fit their lives." This is present 
tense. So the "ongoing malevolent belittling" of women, which Solle states (who 
wrote her book in 1998), has not yet found its end. 

In order to confront this process I wrote this thesis. The number of women 
sacrificed on that sham altar of patriarchy which is not anchored and often ends in 
deepest despair is more than enough. Solle warns that "whatever is consistently and 
without opposition declared to be irrelevant. . .loses its language." So my aim has 
been to give voice to the many wronged women and girls of times bygone, times the 
products of which we still are, at least to a certain extent. 

There is the inconspicuous society, my own generation. I showed that many of 
this generation had been made inconspicuous. There was the heritage of leading 
models for girls and young women taken over from the 1 9 century, revised for a 
short time in World War II, but never genuinely questioned. To write about this, to 
tell Anna's, my own story, is the first attempt to leave this inconspicuousness. The 
Nazi heritage had been, to give up questions, because questions until this day are 
dangerous for every totalitarian regime. To ask questions, to analyze those stories I 

How international the topic of women's 'trivialization' is can be seen by the title the American 
feminists Carter Heyward and Suzanne R. Hiatt chose: "The Church Ponders Evermore the 
Trivialization of Women," Christianity and Crisis, June 26, 1 978, 1 60. 


wrote about, can lead to liberation. If I can see through the motives and intentions of 
all these children's and adolescents' stories - of any story - this is an act of liberation. 
By communicating the results to others the possibility to get caught in the trap of a 
hermeneutic power system may become less. 

The first step: storytelling 

Part of the heritage of the post war society in West Germany (and not only 
there, as I believe) is to give up one's childhood and with it to give up dreams. But 
without being granted a childhood, without dreams, all humankind will have to die, 
because they will be cut off from their inner selves. The harassed human beings in 
Momo are a warning example as are the quarter life crises of the Fit For Fun society 
of our days. "Make more money" does not help against the cry for authenticity, being 
fit is no remedy against the longing for being accepted as the person I am. 

This thesis began with three quotations, each of them defining one single step. 
Liv Ullmann's motto "We have to overcome boundaries, not with a gun in our hand, 
but by telling stories," sets the frame: storytelling. The realization of this frame has 
gone beyond its setting as it links human beings with one another. The act of 
storytelling needs at least two persons (if I do not want to tell stories to myself): the 
one who tells the story, the other one who listens to it. Scheherazade from the Arabian 
Nights tells her husband, King Sharyar (who is convinced of all women's infidelity 
and therefore kills them after the wedding night), stories to rescue her life and that of 

24 Siiddeutsche Zeitung Nr. 28, 2.13. Febr., 2002, 55. 

Arabian Nights: the marvels and wonders of the Thousand and one nights/ adapted from 
Richard F. Burston's unexpurgated translation by Jack Zipes (New York: Signet Classic, 1991). 


her children. Wilhelm Hauff s merchants in the Karawane tell stories to pass the time. 
Giovanni Boccaccio's (1313-1375) persons in his Decamerone tell stories to 
ascertain that they are still alive, although surrounded by the Plague, Geoffrey 
Chaucer's (1342-1400) pilgrims tell their stories in the Canterbury Tales to shorten 
their way to Canterbury Cathedral, the destination of their pilgrimage. In Spare 
Change News, the weekly magazine of the homeless, Susan R. Horton gives us a 
different aspect of storytelling: "In the end, our stories are all that stand between us 
and the cold winds of isolation and despair. They comfort and teach us, and connect 


us to one another and to our deepest selves." All of them are overcoming boundaries 
to a certain degree. But everyone who tells her or his story needs more. They need the 
trust in those who listen (and sometimes courage from those who tell stories), because 
women in particular have to speak up against the throttling experiences of a being told 
"What you are writing is not worth while/too trivial/against etiquette/an act of fouling 
of the nest." The "ongoing malevolent belittling" is still at work. I saw it in my 
classes, where boys and young men expressed themselves incessantly, whereas the 
girls and young women often thought that they had nothing or little to say, because 
they were taught so by society. 

The second step: healing wounds - establishing democracy and civilization 

The second step is marked by Carol Gilligan's motto "Women may hold a key 
to replacing violence with speaking, bringing private feuds into public places, and 

Giovanni Boccaccio. The Decameron, transl. by Guido Waldman (Oxford: Oxford University 
Press, 1993). 

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, ed. by Steve Ellis (Harlow [England]: Longman, 

Susan R. Horton, Spare Change News, Jan. 23 - Febr.5, 2003, 4. 


healing wounds which otherwise fester from generation to generation - in short, to 
establish democracy and civilization." Here storytelling ("speaking") no longer is a 
singular act of privacy. Here we are confronted with a choice: violence versus 
speaking. Like Ullmann the gun is exchanged for the act of speaking. But Gilligan 
opens up a new prospect: healing wounds and establishing democracy. To "establish 
democracy and civilization" has become the most important task in this world, to my 
belief. This strong wish made it possible for me to overcome my deep fears of ever 
becoming "conspicuous" and made me step out of my "invisibility" by demonstrating 
against the war against Iraq. I painted a poster, using elements of Christian 
iconography, but in reality I painted an Arab woman dressed like the Jewish Miriam/ 
Mary in the Christian paintings of the Middle Ages. This woman seems to sit in a rose 
bower which in reality is constructed of the remainders of the twin towers of the 
World Trade Center. The "roses" are blood drops, the woman and her child are 
endangered by a bomber. 


A message of healing and being responsible for the world at large is 
expressed by the feminist theologian Judith Plaskow, as well. In her essay "Feminist 
Judaism and the Repair of the World" she emphasizes that "feminism - while it has 
not always understood itself as a religious movement - has tied a vision of women's 
wholeness to a broad program for social and political action." 29 In this essay she 
elaborates on the fascinating "Kabbalistic concept of tikkun olam. ..Tikkun refers to 
the method through which repair [of the world] is to be accomplished . . .In embracing 
the world while cognizant of the presence of the sacred in all aspects of reality, human 
beings can elevate the holy sparks present in the whole creation."' Plaskow 
underlines that "Jewish feminists have described women's liberation as an aspect of 
tikkun, an ingredient in the repair and transformation of the world that is part of its 
redemption." ' The Jewish feminist Judith Plaskow teaches the German woman 
Brigitte Lowe about healing and liberation. With the Nazi background of my people 
and my own father in particular I am deeply grateful to come to know Jews whose 
families or they themselves have escaped from the shoah [annihilation], a term I 
prefer to that of holocaust, because a holocaust means a whole burnt offering, given 
to YHWH. This genocide, however, was connected with idols that were man-made 
like Hitler. It had nothing to do with the God of Israel and was certainly not issued by 
HIM, although Western Christianity had taught the topic of the "Christ murder" 
throughout centuries, so that some Christians saw the shoah as its consequence (two 
thousand years after!). The "Christ murder" topic even reached me in Cambridge. In 

Judith Plaskow, "Feminist Judaism and the Repair of the World," in Carol Adams, ed., 
Ecofeminism and the Sacred (New York: Continuum, 1999), 71. 

30 Ibid., 75. 

31 Ibid., 77. 


one of my classes a Jewish fellow student wrote about it. As a child she had felt as 
responsible for the "Christ murder" as I myself had felt responsible for the shoah. We 
both learned that we suffered from astoundingly similar fears, albeit from far different 
origins and depths of suffering: she was afraid to be seen as the "loud" Jew, I as the 
"ugly" German for example. It was the first time for me that I could speak about these 
fears at all, and for me this certainly issued a piece of redemption - to speak up. There 
were other situations where reconciliation "happened." At that vigil for which I had 
painted the "Arab madonna" a lady strongly objected it "since not all of us are 
Christians," as she said. I told her I would gladly remove the poster but that I had only 
made use of a Christian icon for a different purpose. So we discussed my ideas and in 
the end she said: "O.K. You have convinced me," and only then did she tell me that 
she was a Jew from Europe who had escaped the shoah. Even my hairdresser in 
Cambridge is a Jew from Vienna, who speaks German to me in order to brush up her 
German for her phone calls with her old mother in Israel who still speaks German. 
This for me means reconciliation with my past, my fears, for which I am immensely 
The third step: reconciliation 

Reconciliation, the third step, involves more than establishing democracy: The 
healing of wounds first has to take place in individuals, then in society. Storytelling 
per se is the first step, establishing democracy another one. But the third (or the 
second?) step has to be reconciliation. At the already mentioned conference on 
Religion and the Feminist Movement I saw women full of anger or wrath, women 

Dorothee Solle and Luise Schottroff. Jesus of Nazareth, trans, by John Bowden (Louisville: 
Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 146. 


who had forgotten how to smile, because of what they had to experience. Anger is a 
very necessary emotion. In the course of this thesis I proved how dangerous the 
absence of anger could be. The tract stories about little Marie (Die kleine Jungeriri) 
and Spyri's Vrony (Ein Blatt aufVronys Grab) showed its lethal consequences. Little 
Marie as well as Vrony were never allowed to see or express themselves as angry 
persons, although both of them had the potential for anger. Emily Kempin- Spyri's life 
ended in a lunatic asylum. Would she have been there had she expressed the anger she 
certainly must have felt about the unjust treatment of her father, her family, of society 
at large? But anger is dangerous should it become the final emotion. Anger can ossify 
human beings. All of us know those persons who have nothing to report but repeat the 
wrong-doings of others year in, year out. Virginia Woolf observed it in Charlotte 
Bronte about whom she wrote: "The woman. . .had more genius in her than Jane 
Austen; but if one reads them [her pages] over and marks that jerk in them, that 
indignation, one sees that she will never get her genius expressed whole and 
entire. . .She will write in a rage where she should write calmly. She will write 
foolishly where she should write wisely." Rosemary Radford Ruether rightly 
emphasizes: "Only by experiencing one's anger and alienation can one move on, with 
real integrity, to another level of truth." 34 Anger has to act. The angry Jesus (Matthew 
21:12) turned over the tables of the money changers and merchants in the temple. But 
he did not remain in this state. I myself had to learn how to be angry with my unjust 
father, and this healed me from depression. My action consisted in writing. 

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (San Diego: Harvest, 1989), viiif. 
Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology (Boston: 
Beacon Press, 1993), 188 [italics mine]. 


The courage to tell my story, to give voice is one step. Reconciliation can only 
take place if there is someone who clearly states that injustice has been done, that act 
which Alice Miller calls the understanding witness. Its immense importance could be 
seen in the process of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I saw it 
again in the course of this conference on Religion and the Feminist Movement, where 
wronged women found themselves in solidarity with others. Only the acceptance of 
my neediness (which is painful enough in itself) and the experience of solidarity with 
others can bring about healing. So reconciliation is the strongest form of liberation 
because it leads to a healing of the soul. 

This is expressed in my third quotation, the one by Margaret Atwood. It has 
been taken from her Handmaid's Tale, 35 that novel depicting the cruelty of the narrow 
minded fundamentalistic believers of Gilead, an imaginary story about an imaginary 
Cambridge, Massachusetts. The words spoken here could have been my own words, 
because it was I who had "given myself over into the hands of strangers, because it 
[couldn't] be helped." I came to Cambridge with the motto of the Bremen Town 
Musicians, four "useless" animals of yet another Grimm 's fairy tales: "We're off to 
Bremen where there are better things than death." Cambridge was to become my 
Bremen. I was here for reconciling with my past. Since I had given up teaching 
because I did not seem to fit into the teaching scene of that once so beloved school 
any longer, I felt like Wilhelm Raabe's figure of the Magister Buchius, a teacher 

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (New York: Ballantine Books, 1987), 378. 

Jack Zipes, trans., The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (New York: Bantam, 
1988), vol. I, 115. 

Wilhelm Raabe (German poet: 1831-1910, who had lived in my little hometown in the 
Weserbergland for a while). 


who was left behind, when his school, the meanwhile protestant monastery school of 

Amelungsborn moved over to Holzminden (where I actually attended this school). 



Amelungsborn, Former Cistercian Monastery, 12 century 


This Weserbergland in Lower Saxony (and with fringes of Westphalia as well) 

stands for my own roots. The fairy tale country is a bewitching country with its 
breathtaking views, its chalk cliffs, hills and mountains; with its billowing yellow rape 
fields and the sweet smell of honeysuckle that makes you crave for paradise; this fairy 
tale country with the glittering river Weser and its old gods' mountain, which the 
monks renamed into "cur," since the German word for "Gotter" [gods] is so near to 


Wilhelm Raabe, Das Odfeld. Samtliche Werke, her. i.A. der Braunschweigischen 


"Koter" [cur]; this fairy tale country with forests full of dark blue columbines and rare 
orchids; with its deep, deep sky that makes at least me wish I could dissolve in all its 
blueness; this enchanted country with its "cruel pockets" of sometimes narrow- 
mindedness is my country. 


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Map of the Weserbergland 

Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft vol. 17(Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966), 7-220. 


The River Weser seen from SchloB Fiirstenberg 

It is a farmers' country first of all, with strict rules for the upbringing of girls 
and the appropriate behavior of women, certainly not designed for revolutionary 
ideas. And yet it bread the first woman historian in Germany (or what could be taken 
for "Germany" at the time of about 1000 C.E.), Hrosvith of Gandersheim 
(Hrosvit/Hroswitha/Roswitha von Gandersheim, c. 930 - d. after 973 C. E.), only a 
few miles away from my little hometown. She called herself the "strong voice of 


Gandersheim." She was a canon, a playwright, a poet, a woman with self-confidence 

in the Benedictine nunnery at Gandersheim, the royal abbey, then a center for 
intellectual and spiritual activity. To me she is not only a poet but has the quality of a 


mystic as well, when she writes "I also know that God has given me a sharp mind. . .so 
that the worthlessness of my own ignorance may be ennobled by the interweaving of 
this nobler material's shine, and that, thus, the Giver of my talent all the more be 

justly praised through me, the more limited the female intellect is believed to be. 


Mystics defy the life style of their respective age, deliberately or not, and female 
mystics in particular. They never fit in. 

Convent Fischbeck 

She is not the only example for early female learnedness in this area. The 
convent for canons, Fischbeck, was founded 955 C.E. by the noblewoman 
Helmburgis. According to the legend of the famous Fischbeck tapestry Helmburgis' 


4(1 1/3/2003. 

The plays ofHrotsvit of Gander sheiml transl. by Katharina Wilson, Garland library of 
medieval literature, v. 62 (New York: Garland Pub., 1989), 5. Cited after 1/3/2003. 


Tapestry of the Convent Fischbeck with the story of the founder Helmburgis 

husband accused her of infidelity during the long years of his absence (what might he 
himself have done in those years?) when he fought for Emperor Otto I (the same 
emperor who chaperoned Gandersheim). Helmburgis' husband insisted on a divine 
ordeal. So she and her maid were tied to a carriage, drawn by wild horses. But by the 
grace of God the horses were attracted by a brook (Lower Saxon dialect: Beke = 
Beck) and so they stopped to drink. The two women's ties vanished, Helmburgis 
drank from the water, too, and found a golden little fish (German: Fisch) in her hand. 
So she vowed to found a convent and call it Fischbeck, 41 the rare story of a wronged 
woman with a positive ending. Today, more than one thousand years after, there are 
still women in this convent, although no longer canons, but single women of 
Protestant faith, some of them feminists. 


Convent Fischbeck today 

This landscape does not only comprise the learned women of the tenth century 
and myself, it was the landscape of my second grandmother, who had no education 
beyond her primary school years. She is the one about whom I know next to nothing. 
Hermine Dorothea Maria, the second of my grandmothers, to whom I dedicated my 
thesis, was from this landscape. She was born and raised there and never left in all her 

41 . 1/4/2003. 


life. The womanist Alice Walker writes: "And so our mothers and grandmothers have, 
more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of flower 
they themselves never hoped to see: or like a sealed letter they could not plainly 
read," 42 and the African American singer Ysaye M. Barnwell tells us in her song We 
are...: "We are our grandmothers' prayer." 43 Had Hermine Dorothea Maria wished 
for a granddaughter? Was I her answer to prayer? 

What do I know about this other root of mine? "She was so humble that she 
ate the feet (sic) of geese'Vdied of pneumonia when she was in her early fifties/was a 
lively, beautiful girl when engaged to be married/was a still beautiful, but melancholy 
woman with sad eyes, when she was in her forties/ was a rich farmer's daughter 
whose secretary bureau was given to me when I was fourteen years old. This is all I 
know about my grandmother on my father's side. The only facts I know about her are 
that bureau which is a precious centerpiece in my apartment, and I inherited the sofa 
of her living room, the armchairs, the beautiful table with its cut edges and elaborately 
wrought feet, after my grandfather died. So I possess the furniture of her dowry, and 
yet I do not know anything substantial about the person who lived with it. I possess 
two photos as well, but what I read from them is mere guesswork. Yet the difference 
between the two is most striking. Was she unhappy in the marriage with my thrifty 
grandfather? Were the marvelous roses he used to cultivate from wild exemplars for 
her or did he not allow them to be cut and arranged in luscious bouquets? I know so 
much about him, about his predilection for these flowers, his love of music and books, 
because I share these preferences. But how come that I know next to nothing about 

Alice Walker. In Search of our Mothers ' Gardens: Womanist Prose (San Diego: Harcourt 
Brace Jovanovich, 1983), 240. 


her? It was he who proudly told me about her "humbleness," and I do remember how 
deeply shocked I was about the idea to eat "geese feet," even as a little girl in times 
where food was scarce. Who would eat those yellow feet? What a strange woman she 
must have been! I definitely knew even at that time that I never wanted to be like her 
in that respect. 

On her engagement photo she gives the impression of a resolute vivacious 
person, full of energy. So why did not she say "no," when my father was sent to the 
district town in order to attend the monastery school of Amelungsborn, then 
Gymnasium fur Jungen, at the age of nine, where he had to stay as a boarder, never 
allowed to come home the ten kilometers of distance, unless for holidays? Why did 
she never send him a parcel as he later on told us? What had happened to her? Why 
was she so silenced that the only story known about her deals with the so-called 
"humbleness?" Did this fit in into the prevailing portraits of women at that time? 
There are no letters left, no diary like my grandfather's which hardly mentions her. 
Grandmother Georgine left me beautifully embroidered table cloths which she herself 
had done. By Hermine I possess some exquisite linen table cloths with enormous 
monograms: HH, her maiden monograms, not HS, done in a highly elaborate way, 
white in white. Did she do these herself? She left me a table cloth for a table seating 
twelve persons, with the illustration of the Last Supper woven into it, certainly an 
unusual table cloth even at her time. Was she a pious person? No one ever told me 
about her preferences. 

When I write all this down, I cannot believe that I never asked anybody about 

Ysaye M Barnwell, We Are. 5 from the song suite Lessons. Word and music by Ysaye M 

Barnwell (Washington. DC: DC Press, 1991). 


her. She was dead, when my parents married, and she never knew about me. So, was 
that the reason? Why did my father never speak about her - apart from the complaint 
about the missing parcel? Was it painful for him to remember her? What traits, what 
propensities do I share with her? Grandmother Georgine, about whom I know so 
much, grandmother Hermine, the silent woman, silenced woman? I want to give voice 
to both of them. In dedicating this thesis to them I acknowledge their heritage in me. I 
am the granddaughter of both of them, of Georgine, who could express herself so well 
and whose beautiful handwriting is still before me, and of Hermine, the silent woman, 
whose fate was kept in the dark, unless there was nobody there any longer who knew 

The still "speaking" grandmother, Georgine, actually gave me my Christian 
name, since my parents could not agree on it. I always connected this name with the 
Irish St. Bride, whom I adopted as my patron saint. In her, the patron saint of 
cowgirls, blacksmiths, and poets I could always find an echo of myself: a person very 
much down to earth, and often very much in the skies. And even my former maiden 
name fits: Schmidt, smith - surely there had been one blacksmith in the long line of 
my ancestors. So I always liked my name since I linked it with both, grandmother 
Georgine and the Irish saint, although in my strictly Protestant family there was no 
room for saints, male or female. 

What has been given to me by Hermine? I would love to think that my 
enthusiasm for entertaining guests from time to time might stem from her. May be 
that this was an unfulfilled dream, the "seed" that she had handed over to me? One of 
the pictures which I loved most in my childhood is by the Swedish painter Carl 


Larsson. 44 It belongs to his cycle Spadarfvet - mitt lilla lantbruk (Spadarfvet - our 

place in the country) my favorite book then, and has the title Julaftonen: Christmas 

Eve. Here a whole family, old and young ones, servants and masters, neighbors, 

relatives are assembled at a huge table full of delicious food, an open fire crackling in 

the background. This was and is my "image of abundance." Perhaps Hermine had had 

a similar dream, before she settled in my grandfather's cold and always draughty 


The long procession of silenced women from Emily Kempin-Spyri to perhaps 

my own grandmother Hermine are only a minute detail in the immense and 

unfathomable line of wronged women, of women literally made speechless and 

without voice all over this world. And yet they live. They live and regain their voice 

when we as human beings speak about them, help them to regain authenticity, when 

we as females and males work for the change of this world to become a more just, a 

more inhabitable planet for all human beings, all creation at large. To quote Judith 

Plaskow once more: 

This institutionalized separation of spirituality and politics, proceeding from 
the same hierarchy of mind and body that supports the disparagement of 
women and nature, represents a dualism to be rejected. When spirituality is 
understood from a feminist perspective - not in otherworldy terms, but as the 
fullness of our relationship to ourselves, others, the earth, and God - it cannot 
possibly be detached from the conditions of our existence. 45 

The "fullness of our relationship to ourselves" can only come into existence 

when we know about ourselves: our origins, our fate, our roots. I myself am shaped by 

my ancestors, by what I have experienced. But I am formed by more. In the times of 

the deepest affliction the knowledge about those people from the Weserbergland 

44 Carl Larsson (Swedish painter, 1853-1919). 

45 Plaskow, 71. 


Wilhelm Raabe had depicted in the already quoted novel Das Odfeld 46 or in his novel 
Hoxter und Corvey 47 helped me pull through. I learned about their sufferings in the 
manifold wars that had come across this region, starting from the Thirty Years' War 

That helped me to see myself in a long line of fellow creatures to whom I 
belonged, who had been wronged, suffered, but had survived. I saw the many women 
before my inner eye who had taken up the work of men when their husbands, fathers, 
brothers had been in the war and often enough did not return. Despite their fate many 
of them either had not lost their dignity or they had regained it. My childhood was full 
of war- widows who did what had to be done or those unmarried aunts or "spinsters" 
who made a child life in the forties breathable. My "relationship to. . .others" is shaped 
by them, as well as my "relationship to. . .the earth." My grandmother Georgine with 
her large garden, her one source of survival, the many childhood-widows with their 
beautiful flower gardens, my mother's garden - those heart-aching places of 
childhood memories, they shaped my relationship to this earth. To give up my own 
"magic garden" with its white Kiftsgate roses rambling in the cypresses, with the 
white and red streaked blossoms of Ferdinand Pichard, its deep red Sympathie, its 
pale pink climbing New Dawn, its sweet smelling purple pink Louise Odier, the noble 
shapes of the pink Queen Elizabeth or the sun-colored, richly perfumed rose Amber 
Queen was only possible in the deepest of all winters, literally and otherwise. To 
touch earth, to feel it crumble between my fingers is still the greatest remedy for me. 



Odfeld: either "Bleak Field" or Campus Odini "Odin's Field". 

Wilhelm Raabe, Hoxter und Corvey. Samtliche Werke, Braunschweiger Ausgabe, vol. 1 1 

(Braunschweig: Verlagsanstalt Hermann Klemm, 1956), 261-353. 


A Q 

Wilhelm Raabe speaks of gardens lost as "sunken gardens,"' starting from the very 
first, the garden of Eden, the paradise. 

I have spoken about the "seeds" for a "relationship to. . .God" already when I 
wrote about my grandmother Georgine. This has shaped me, has made me the person 
I am. 

Judith Plaskow summarizes all this as "spirituality." Our ways to achieve it are 
different. One possibility for me to undertake this may be to follow the bold example 
of an unknown little girl of about six years whom I watched during a service in one of 
Cambridge's churches. Not only did she get up and danced in a perfect pose 
throughout the whole liturgy, but she went to the Eucharist twice as well, twice asking 
for the Bread of Life. Perhaps we have to do the same in order to change the world for 
the better, in order to strengthen the Christ in us. It can provide us with a new 
language of a deeper understanding. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe knew about it, 
when in his West-Ostlicher Diwan {West-Eastern Divan) under the heading paradise 
he refers to a language spoken between humans and angels, a language with a "hidden 
grammar" and a declension of "poppies and roses." 49 It is the language of Eros, 
Sexuality, and the Spirit^ altogether (although Goethe's finding has little to do with 
Christianity), no longer split into separate entities but being all embodied as a whole. 
The new grammar, the new declension is necessary, because our old one has been 

Wilhelm Raabe, Meister Autor oder Die Geschichten vom versunkenen Garten. Samtliche 
Werke, Braunschweiger Ausgabe, vol. 1 1 (Braunschweig: Verlagsanstalt Hermann Klemm, 1956), 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Der west-ostliche Diwan. Abteilung Chuld Nameh: Buch des 
Paradieses. Sammlung Dieterich (Leipzig: Dieterichsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1943), vol. 125, 130. 
50 Course taught by Kwok Pui-Lan, EDS, June 200 1 . 


polluted and cannot be used any longer. Even an "I love you" has become a cheap and 
every day's coin. This new language could enable us to keep or regain the "window of 
vulnerability," as Dorothee Solle expresses it in her poem 3 : 

The window of vulnerability 

so the military say 

in order to give reasons for re-armament 

has to be closed 

One window of vulnerability 

is my skin 

without humidity and without touch 

I must die 

The window of vulnerability 

will be walled up 

my country cannot live 

we need light 

in order to think 

we need air 

in order to breathe 

we need a window 


If this can be brought about or at least get started by storytelling, then storytelling is 
truly an act of liberation. 

Solle, Und ist noch nicht erschienen, 109f [translation mine]. 


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Doderer, Klaus, ed. Lexikon der Kinder- und Jugendliteratur (LKJL). Personen-, Ldnder- 
und Sachartikel zu Geschichte und Gegenwart der Kinder- und Jugendliteratur. 
Weinheim: Beltz, 1975-82. 

Ende, Michael. Momo oder Die selfsame Geschichte von den Zeit-Dieben und von dem 
Kind, das den Menschen die gestohlene Zeit zuruckbrachte. Ein Mar chen- Roman. 
Stuttgart: Thienemann, 1973. 

Exum, J. Cheryl. Fragmented Women: Feminist (Sub)versions of Biblical 
Narratives Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993. 

Felder, Cain Hope, ed. Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical 
Interpretation. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991. 


Feyl, Renate. Der lautlose Aufbruch. Frauen in der Wissenschaft.Koln: Kiepenheuer & 
Witsch, 1999. 

Fontane, Theodor. Effi Briest. vol. 3, Munchen: Hanser, 1982. 

Fontane, Theodor. Der Stechlin. vol. 4, Munchen: Hanser, 1982. 

Freud, Sigmund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works, vol. VII. 
A Case of Hysteria. London: The Hogarth Press, 1953. 

Gadamer, Hans Georg. Wahrheit und Methode. Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1960. 

Gadamer, Hans Georg. Truth and Method. Translated and edited by Garrett Barden and 
John Cumming. New York: Seabury Press, 1975. 

Gebara Ivone. Longing for Running Water. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999. 

Gilligan, Carol. "The Inner World in the Outer World: A Psychodynamic Perspective". In 
Remembering Iphigenia: Voice, Resonance and a Talking Cure. For Edward R. 
Shapiro. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997. 

Gilligan, Carol. The Birth of Pleasure. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. 

Gossmann, Elisabeth, ed. Worterbuch der feministischen Theologie. Giitersloh: 
Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1991. 

Gomes, Peter J. The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart. 
New York: Avon, 1996. 

Gutschera, Herbert et al. Brennpunkte der Kirchengeschichte. Paderborn: 
Schoningh, 1976. 

Habermas, Jiirgen. The Theory of Communicative Action. Vol 1 . Reason and the 

Rationalization of Society. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon 
Press, 1983. 

Habermas, Jiirgen. Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action. Translated by 
Christian Lenhardt and Shierry Weber Nicholsen. Cambridge/MA: MITPress, 

Habermas, Jiirgen. Knowledge and Human Interests. Translated by Jeremy Shapiro. 
Boston: Beacon Press, 1971. 


Harding, M. Esther. Woman's Mysteries. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1971. 

Harrington, Daniel J. The New Interpreter's Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999. 

Harper Collins. Study Bible. New Revised Standard Version. San Francisco: Harper 
Collins, 1993. 

Harper Collins. Bible Commentary. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1988. 

Hauff, Wilhelm. Die Karawane. Die Geschichte von KalifStorch. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 

Heilbrunn, G.Carolyn. Reinventing Womanhood. New York. London: W. W. 
Norton & Company, 1979. 

Helbling, Barbara, Verena Rutschmann et al., ed. Dabei erzdhlen Sie so resolut... 
Johanna Spyri 12. Juni 1827-7. Juli 1901. Texte und Material ien zur 
Ausstellung. Johanna Spyri-Archiv, Zurich: 2001. 

Helm, Clementine. Backfischchens Freuden und Leiden: Eine Erzdhlungfur junge 
Mddchen. Leipzig: Georg Wigand, no date. 

Heyward, Carter. Saving Jesus From Those Who Are Right. Rethinking what it means 
to be Christian. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999. 

Heyward, Carter. God in the Balance. Christian Spirituality in Times of Terror. 
Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2002. 

Hooker, Morna D. The Gospel According to St. Mark. Black's New Testament 
Commentaries. London: A & C Black, 1991. 

Hoffmann, Rudiger. Religiose Jugendliteratur. Eine Analyse des Weltbildes 

Kirchlicher Verteilbldtter. Hildesheim: Verlag Dr. H.A.Gerstenberg. 1974. 
Studia Irenica XVI. Institut fur wissenschaftliche Irenik der Universitat 

Hurrelmann, Bettina (ed). Klassiker der deutschen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur. 
Fischer tb, Frankfurt am Main, 1997. 

lilies, Florian. Generation Golf. Eine Inspektion. Frankfurt am Main: 2002. 

Isasi-Diaz, Ada Maria. Mujerista Theology. New York: Maryknoll, 2001. 


Jamin, Mathilde und Frank Kerner, ed. Maikdferflieg... Kindheitserinnerungen 1940- 
1960. Bottrop-Essen: Ruhrlandmuseum Essen und Verlag Peter Pomp, 2001. 

Jakob, Franziska. Zur Wertung des Madchenbuches. Untersuchungen an Texten 

aus derZeit von 1945 bis 1980. Zurich: juris Druck+Verlag, 1985. Dissertation 
der Universitat Zurich. 

Jepsen, Maria. „...das Weib rede in der Gemeinde". Maria Jepsen: Erste lutherische 
Bischofin. Dokumente und Stellungnahmen. Giitersloh: Mohn, 1992. 

Jepsen, Maria. In dubio pro Deo. Heidelberg. Juristische Studiengesellschaft Karlsruhe, 
Schriftenreihe. Heft 225. Heidelberg: Muller-Huthig Verlag, 1997. 

Johnson, Barbara. The Feminist Difference. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998. 

Johnston, Caryl. Consecrated Venom: The Serpent and the Tree of Knowledge. 
Edinburgh: Floris, 2000. 

Kast, Verena. Sich wandeln und sic h neu entdecken. Freiburg: Herder, 1996. 

Kast, Verena. Wege aus Angst und Symbiose. Marchen psychologisch gedeutet. Olten: 
Walter-Verlag, 1983. 

Kidwell, Clara Sue, Homer Noley, George E. "Tink" Tinker. A Native American 
Theology. New York: Maryknoll, 2001. 

Kluger, Ruth. Frauen lesen anders. Essays. Munchen: Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. 

Koch, Henny. Papas Junge. Eine Erzdhlung fur junge Mddchen. Stuttgart: Union 
Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, no date. 

Kosslowski-Klee, Andrea. "Das Motiv des Waisenkindes in der erzahlenden 
Literatur der zweiten Halfte des 19. Jahrhunderts: Motivstruktur und 
Motivfunktion." Ann Arbor: UMI 9615070, 1996. Dissertation in Germanic 
Languages and Literatures. University of Pennsylvania. 

Kwok, Pui-Lan. Interpretation als Modell. Luzern: Exodus. 1 996. 

Kwok, Pui-Lan, ed. Women 's Sacred Scriptures. London. SMC Press, 1998. 

Kwok, Pui-Lan. Introducing Asian Feminist Theology. Cleveland: Pilgrim's Press, 2000. 


Lachele, Rainer, ed. Das Echo Holies. Kulturelle Wirkungen des Pietismus. Tubingen: 
Bibliotheca academia Verlag, 2001 . 

Leutheuser, Karsten. Freie, gefuhrte und verfuhrte Jugend. Politisch motivierte 

Jugendliteratur in Deutschland 1919 - 1989. Paderborn: Igel Verlag Wiss. 1995. 
Dissertation Universitat Saarbriicken. 

Lievegoed, Bernard. Phases of Childhood. Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1987. 

Marcks, Marie. Kriimm dich beizeiten. Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer, 1980. 

Mays, James L., ed. Harper 's Bible Commentary. San Francisco: Harper, 1988. 

Meyers, Carol. Discovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context. Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1988. 

Meyer Spacks, Patricia. The Female Imagination. London: George Allen & 
UnwinLtd, 1969. 

Miller, Alice. Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society 's Betrayal of the Child. New 
York: Farrar. Straus. Giroux, 1985. 

Miller, Alice. For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing, and the 

Roots of Violence. Transl. By Hildegarde and Hunter Hannum, New York: 
Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983. 

Miller, Alice. The Drama of Being a Child and the Search for the True Self. Translated 
by Ruth Ward. London: Virago Press, 1987. 

Miller, Alice. Pictures of a Childhood. Translated by Hildegarde Hannum. New York: 
Farrar, Straus, and Girous, 1 986. 

Miller, Alice. Am Anfang war Erziehung. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1980. 

Mollenhauer, Klaus. Erziehung und Emanzipation. Polemische Skizzen. Miinchen: 
Juventa, 1970. 

Moltmann-Wendel, Elisabeth. Frauenbefreiung. Biblische und theologische Argumente. 
Miinchen: Kaiser, 1978. 

Moltmann-Wendel, Elisabeth. Wach auf meine Freundin. Die Wiederkehr der 
Gottesfreundschaft. Stuttgart: Kreuz Verlag, 2000. 


Mueller Nelson, Gertrud. Here All Dwell Free. Stories to Heal the Wounded Feminine. 
New York: Paulist Press, 1999. 

Myers, Ched. Binding the Strong Man. New York: Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1988. 

Myers, Ched, Marie Dennis, Joseph Nangle, OFM, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Stuart 

Taylor. Say To This Mountain: Mark 's Story ofDiscipleship, ed. by Lattea, 
Karen. New York: Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1996. 

Newsom Carol A. and Sharon H. Ringe, ed. Women 's Bible Commentary. 
Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992. 

Nostlinger, Christine. Maikdfer, flieg\ Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg, 1973. 

Nostlinger, Christine. Konrad oder das Kind aus der Konservenbuchse. Hamburg: 
Oetinger, 1975. 

Nostlinger, Christine. Stundenplan. Weinheim: Beltz, 1991. 

Picht, Georg. Mut zur Utopie. Die grofien Zukunftsaufgaben. Munchen: Piper. 

Pinkerneil, Beate. Ed. Das grofie deutsche Balladenbuch. K6nigstein/Ts. : 
Athenaum, 1978. 

Pinkola Estes, Clarissa. Women who Run with the Wolves. Myths and Stories of the Wild 
Woman Archetype. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995. 

Pipher, Mary. Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. New 
York: Ballantine Books, 1995. 

Preiswerk, Roy, ed. The Slant of the Pen: Racism in Children 's Books. Geneva: 
Office of Education. World Council of Churches, 1980. 

Raabe, Wilhelm. Das Odfeld. Samtliche Werke. LA. der Braunschweigischen Wiss. 
Gesellschaft, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966, vol. 11. 

Raabe, Wilhelm. Meister Autor oder die Geschichten vom versunkenen Garten. 
Samtliche Werke. LA. der Braunschweigischen Wiss. Gesellschaft, 
Braunschweig: Verlagsanstalt Hermann Klemm, 1956, vol. 17. 

Rabl, Josef, ed. Religiose Kinderliteratur. Religionspadagogische Beitrage J 967- J 980. 
Munchen: Kaiser, 1981. 


Rad, von, Gerhard. Genesis: A Commentary. London: SCM Press, 1961. 

Radford Ruether, Rosemary. Gaia & God. San Francisco: Harper. 1989. 

Radford Ruether, Rosemary. Women and Redemption: A Theological History. 
Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998. 

Radford Ruether, Rosemary. Womanguides. Readings Toward a Feminist 
Theology. Boston: Beacon, 1985. 

Radford Ruether, Rosemary. Frauenbilder, Gottesbilder. Giitersloh: Mohn, 1987. 

Radford Ruether, Rosemary. Sexism and God-Talk. Toward a Feminist Theology. 
Boston: Beacon Press, 1993. 

Ranke-Heinemann, Uta. Eunuchenfur das Himmelreich. Katholische Kirche und 
Sexualitdt. Hamburg. Hoffmann und Campe, 1988. 

Ranke-Heinemann. Uta. Putting Away Childish Things. The Virgin Birth, the Empty 

Tomb, and Other Fairy Tales You Don 't Need to Believe to Have a Living Faith. 
San Francisco: Harper, 1994. 

Rendtorff, Rolf. Canon and Theology: Overtures to an Old Testament Theology. 
Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993. 

Rendtorff, Rolf. Gesammelte Studien zum Alien Testament. Munchen: Chr. 
Kaiser, 1975. 

Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born. Motherhood as Experience and Institution. New York, 
London: W. W. Norton , 1995. 

Rhoden, Emmy von. Der Trotzkopf. Wien: Ueberreuter, 1982. 

Russell, Letty M. and J. Shannon Clarkson, ed. Dictionary of Feminist 
Theologies. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1996. 

Schmidt, Renate, Mieke Korenhof und Renate Jost, ed. Feministisch gelesen. 

Ausgewahlte Bibeltexte fur Gruppen, Gemeinden und Gottesdienste, 2 vol. 
Stuttgart: Kreuz Verlag, 1989. 

Schortroff, Luise/ Silvia Schroer/ Marie-Theres Wacker. Feministische Exegese. 
Forschungsertrage zur Bibel aus der Perspektive von Frauen. Darmstadt: 
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1995. 


Schroer, Silvia/ Thomas Staubli. Die Korpersymbolik der BibeL Darmstadt: 
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Sonderausgabe. 1998. 

Schmolders, Claudia, ed. Deutsche Kinder: Siebzehn biographische Portrdts. 
Berlin: Rowohlt 1997. 

Schiissler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. Discipleship of Equals: A Critical Feminist 
Ekklesia-logy of Liberation. New York: Crossroad, 1993. 

Schiissler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. Ideology, Power, and Interpretation: Galatians 3:28. 

Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 

Schiissler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. Jesus, Miriam 's Child, Sophia 's Prophet. New 
York: Continuum, 1999. 

Schiissler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. Sharing Her Word Feminist Biblical Interpretation in 
Context. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998. 

Schiissler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. But She Said.Boston: Beacon Press, 1992. 

Schiissler Fiorenza. Elisabeth. Zu ihrem Geddchtnis. Giitersloh: Chr. Kaiser, 1993. 

Schiissler Fiorenza, Elisabeth, ed. Searching the Scriptures, vol. 1 , New York: 
Crossroad Herder, 1997. 

Schiissler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. Wisdom Ways. Introducing Biblical Interpretation. 
New York: Maryknoll, 2001. 

Sichelschmidt, Gustav. Liebe, Mord und Abenteuer. Eine Geschichte der deutschen 
Unterhaltungsliteratur. Berlin: Haude & Spener, MCMLXIX. 

Siemann, Wolfgang. Die deutsche Revolution von 1848/49. Lizenzausgabe fur die 
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1997. 

Smith, Christine M. Preaching as Weeping, Confession, and Resistance. 
Louisville: Westminster/ John Knox Press, 1992. 

Solle, Dorothee. Creative Disobedience. Cleveland: Pilgrim, 1995. 

Solle, Dorothee. Mystik und Widerstand. «Du stilles Geschrei». Hamburg: Hoffmann und 
Campe, 1998. 


Solle. Dorothee. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 

Solle, Dorothee. On Earth as in Heaven. A Liberation Spirituality of Sharing. Translated 
by Marc Batko. Louisville: Westminster/ John Knox Press, 1993. 

Solle, Dorothee. Und ist noch nicht erschienen, was wir sein werden. Stationen 

feministischer Theologie. Munchen: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1987. 

Solle, Dorothee and Luise Schottroff. Jesus of Nazareth. Louisville: Westminster John 
Knox Press: 2002. 

Stern, Carola. Der Text meines Herzens. Das Leben der Rahel Varnhagen. 
Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1997. 

Spyri, Johanna, Heidi: A Little Swiss Girl's City and Mountain Life. Boston. New 
York. Chicago. London : Glenn & Comp.,(n.d.). 

Spyri, Johanna. Gritli 's Children. A Story for Children and those who love 
Children. 2 nd ed. Boston: Cupples & Hurd, 1887. 

Spyri, [Joh]Anna. Ein Blatt aufVronys Grab. Bremen: C. Ed. Mtiller, 1883. 

Tamez, Elsa. When the Horizons Close: Rereading Ecclesiastes. New York: 
Maryknoll, 2000. 

Taylor, Jill McLean, Carol Gilligan, Amy S. Sullivan. Between Voice and Silence: 

Women and Girls, Race and Relationship. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University 
Press, 1997. 

Thadden. Wiebke von. Eine Tochter ist kein Sohn. Wiebke von Thadden erzdhlt die 
Geschichte der Madchen. Weinheim: Beltz Verlag, 2000. 

Trible, Phyllis. God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978. 

Trible, Phyllis. Texts of Terror. Literary Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives. 
Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984. 

Tritten, Charles. Heidi Grows Up. Hungary (n. p.): W.M. Collins, 1981. 

Tritten, Charles. Heidi's Children. Hungary: W.M. Collins, 1981. 

Van Heijst, Annelies. Longing for the Fall. Kok Pharos Publishing House. 
Kampen: The Netherlands, 1995 (English edition). 


Voss, Jutta. Das Schwarzmond-Tabu. Die kulturelle Bedeutung des weiblichen Zyklus. 
Stuttgart: Kreuz Verlag, 1988. 

Wahrig, Gerhard. Deutsches Worterbuch. Giitersloh: Mosaik Verlag, 1985. 

Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers ' Gardens: Womanist Prose. San Diego: 
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. 

Wartenberg-Potter, Barbel von. Wir werden unsere Harfen nicht an die Weiden hdngen. 
Engagement und Spiritualitat. Stuttgart: Kreuz Verlag, 1987. 

Weber-Kellermann. Frauenleben im 19. Jahrhundert. Empire und Romantik, 
Biedermeier, Griinderzeit. Munchen: Beck, 1988. 

Webster 's Third International Dictionary of the English Usage, unabridged. 
Springfield/MA: G & C. Merriam, 1961. 

Weems, Renita J. Battered Love. Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew 
Prophets. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995. 

Wehler, Hans-Ulrich. Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte 1815-1845/49. 2 vol., 
Munchen: Beck, 1987. 

Welch, Sharon D. A Feminist Ethic of Risk. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000. 

Wild, Reiner, ed. Geschichte der deutschen Kinder- und JugendliteraturJ. B. 
Metzler: Stuttgart, 1990. 

Wildermuth, Ottilie. Eine selfsame Geschichte/ Der Peterli von Emmental. Reutlingen: 
Ensslin & Laiblin, no date. 

Wildermuth, Rosemarie. Ach, die Poesie im Leben. Ottilie Wildermuths Briefwechsel mit 
ihrem Sohn Hermann, 1865-1877. Pfullingen: Neske, 1979. 

Winter, Matthias. "Kindheit und Jugend im Mittelalter." Thesis. Freiburg: 
HochschulVerlag, 1984. 

Woller. Hildegunde. Vom Vater verwundet. Tochter der Bibel. Stuttgart: Kreuz Verlag, 

Wolf, Christa. Leibhaftig. Munchen: Luchterhand, 2002. 

Wood, Diana, ed. The Church and Childhood: Papers read at the 1993 Summer 


Meeting and the 1994 Winter Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society. 
Cambridge MA: Blackwell, 1994. 

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One 's Own. San Diego: Harcourt Inc., 1981. 

Yaghjian, Dr. Lucretia B. "Writing Theology Well: A Theological Writer's Guide.'' 
Unpublished ms. Episcopal Divinity School and Weston Jesuit School of 
Theology. Copyright 1998. 

Young, Serinity. An Anthology of Sacred Texts by and about Women. New York: 
Pandora, 1993. 

Zipes, Jack. Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion. New York: Routledge, 1991 . 

Zipes, Jack. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. New York: 
Bantam, 1988. 

II. Journal Articles 

Abrams, Judith Z. "Metzora (at) Kashaleg: Leprosy: Challenge to Authority in the 
Bible." Jewish Bible Quarterly 21 (January 1993): 41-45. 

Bediirftig, Friedemann. "Die Witwe der vier Kunste. In Suddeutsche Zeitung Nr. 58, 

Belotti, Elena. „Frauen sind im Alter potenter." In Alice Schwarzer, ed. EMMA. 
Marz/ April 2001 (68-71). Koln: Emma-Frauenverlag GmbH. 

Christaller, Helene. "Die kleine Jungerin." Christrosen. Erzahlungen fur unsere Jugend. 
ed. Bruno Mehmke. Stuttgart: Kommissions-Verlag von Holland& josenhans. N. 
d. Heft 82,5. 

„Fruchte des Verstehens. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza zum 60. Geburtstag." FAMA 2. 
Feministisch-theologische Zeitschrift, 14. Jahrgang, Juni 1998, Basel. 

Gilmour, Peter. "The Healing Dimension of Classic and Contemporary Texts". 
Religious Education 89 (1994): 194-204. 

Herzog, Kristin. "The Child as Savior and Victim: Religious Traditions and 

Contemporary Reality." Paper presented at the American Academy of Religion, 
Denver, Co, November 19, 2001. 


Holzer, Kerstin. "Das junge Lachen einer alten Dame." In Suddeutsche ZeitungNr. 40, 

Horton, Susan R. "Addiction's Other Cost: Loved Ones In The Wake. In Spare 
Change News. The Homeless Empowerment Project. Jan. 23 - Feb. 5, 

Hutchens, S.M. "The Fairy-Tale God. Truth & Deceit in Children's Fiction." Touchstone. 
A Journal of Mere Christianity. November/December 1999 (36-40). 

Hutchings, A.J.B. "Die romantische Epoche." In Alec Robertson und Dennis Stevens, ed. 
Geschichte der Musik. Passau: Prestel, 1968, vol. Ill (133-189). 

Jensen, Lars. „Des Lebens miide. ,Quarterlife crisis' - Die Generation der 

Uberzwanzigjahrigen ist ein bisschen zu friih von sich selbst erschopft." 
Siiddeutsche ZeitungNr. 124. 01./02.06.2002. SZ Wochenende V). 

Kiepe, Hansjiirgen. "Landschaft Gottes". Wirkendes Wort. 17. Jg. (Januar/Februar 
1967)410 429. 

Kummerow, Walther. "Elisabeth-von-Thadden-Schule. Annaherung an eine 

Auseinandersetzung. " Elisabeth-von-Thaddenschule. Annaherung an eine 
60jahrige Schulgeschichte. Heidelberg: ABC-Druck, 1987 (13-31). 

Kwok, Pui-Lan. "Feminism, Postcolonialism, and Early Christianity. "Paper presented at 
the American Academy of Religion, Toronto, 24 November, 2002. 

Lange, Giinter. „Christine Nostlinger." In Franz, Kurt, Gtinter Lange und Franz- Josef 
Payrhuber im Auftrag der Deutschen Akademie fur Kinder- und Jugendliteratur 
e.V. Volkach, Meitingen: Corian Verlag, 1995-2002 . 1. Erg. Lfg. Marz 1996(1- 

Lange, Marianne. Studien. Zur epischen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur in der BRD. Berlin 
(Ost): Der Kinderbuchverlag Berlin, 1980. Sonderheft. Studien zur Geschichte der 
deutschen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur, (1-100). 

Luti, J. Mary. "Muddling through: Reflections on the Story of Naaman, 2 Kgs 5." 
Christian Century 1 15 (September 1998): 23-30. 

Meyer- Wilmes, Hedwig, et al. FAMA 2, Fruchte des Verstehens, 14. Jahrgang, Juni 98. 

Moltmann, Jiirgen. "Ewigkeit." In Hans Jiirgen Schultz, ed. Theologiefur 

Nichttheologen. ABC protestantischen Denkens. Stuttgart: Kreuz- Verlag, 1968 


Ngan, Lai Ling Elizabeth. "2 Kings 5." Review and Expositor 94 (Fall 1997): 589-597. 

Page, Louisa. "Breaking the Wall of Silence: Domestic Violence Prevention and the 

Congregation." Liza Q. Wirtz, ed. Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, MA, 

Paul, Sharla A. "Rebecca Chopp: Scholar, Administrator, and Volunteer," Religious 
Studies, AARNEWS 16, No. 2 (Spring 2001: 15,20). 

Pfadt, Maria. "Aufienseiterfiguren bei Ottilie Wildermuth. Beispiele aus ihrer Kinder-und 
Jugendliteratur." Beitrdge zur Landeskunde. RegelmaBige Beilage zum 
Staatsanzeiger fur Baden- Wurttemberg. No. 4, August 1996 (1). 

Yaghjian, Lucretia B. "Writing Cultures, Enculturating Writing at Two Theological 

Schools: Mapping Rhetorics of Correlation and Liberation." Teaching Theology 
and Religion, vol. 5/3, (July 2002). 

Reichardt, Lars." '<Wir mussen alle sterben» Der Autor Henning Mankell findet, dass viel 
mehr Kinderbucher traurig enden sollten." In Suddeutsche Zeitung. Magazin No, 
28, 12.07.02, (23-24). 

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung. No author. „Da ,wachst' sozialer Sprengstoff. Nr. 128, 06.06.02, 

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung. No author. „Die ,SpaBgesellschaft' macht immer ofter krank." Nr.,13. 

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung. No author. „Privates Gluck, Konsum und Karriere sind gefragt." 
Nr. 129. 07.06. 02. 15. 

Rubin, Gayle.'The Traffic in Women. Notes on the 'Political Economy' of Sex." In 

Linda Nicholson, ed. The Second Wave. A Reader in Feminist Theory. New York: 
Routledge, 1997. 

Schmidt, Eva Renate. „Von der Schwierigkeit, kirchliche Leitungskompetenz zwischen 
Frauen und Mannern zu teilen." Zeitschrift DIAKONIE, Juli/ August 1989. 
Stuttgart: Verlagswerk der Diakonie GmbH (201-206.) 

Orbach, Susie. „Wenn ich hungrig bin, esse ich." Schwarzer, Alice, ed. "EMMA 1 '. 
Marz/April 2002. Emma-Frauenverlag, Koln (50-53). 


Pachler, N. „Literatur fur Kinder- Literatur zur Kindheit. Eine kritische Wiirdigung des 
Werks von Christine Nostlinger durch einen ,einheimischen Germanisten'." In 
1000&1 Buck 3/1993 (29-31). 

Smith, W. Alan. "Naaman and Elisha: Healing, Wholeness, and the Task of 

Religious Education." Religious Education 89 (Spring 1994): 205-219. 

Spiewak, Martin. „Schwanger urn jeden Preis." DIE ZEIT. Nr. 39, 08.05.2002 (35). 

Ukena, Silja. „Vergessen Sie nicht, Sie sind eine Dame!" In Brigitte. 5/99 (1 1 1- 117). 

Wiihrl, Dr. Paul W. „Frauen-Liebe und -Leben." In Kindlers Literatur Lexikon. 
Miinchen: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1974, vol. 9. 

Zipes, Jack. "Down with Heidi, Down with Struwwelpeter, Three Cheers for the 

Revolution. Towards a New Socialist Children's Literature in West Germany". 
Children's Literature 5 (1976): 162-179. 

III. Internet 

Spyri, Johanna: Life and works m. 10/24/00. 

Heidi 01 Ausstellung Schweizerisches Jugendbuch-Institut sji.htm . 26/09/01. 

Fyfe, Aileen. Dept. History, National University of Ireland, Galway. . 19/01/02. 

Nostlinger, Christine. m-r/noestling/bio.htm . 22/04/02. . 23/04/00. . 12/8/2002. 

http:/ / . 1/3/2003. . 1/3/2003. . 1/4/2003. 


IV. Video 

WDR. Reise in die 50-er, 60-er, 70-er Jahre. Redaktion Gudrun Wolter. 

Teil 5. Smogalarm und Discofieber, 27.08.01, 21.05 Uhr. Teil 6. Deutscher 
Herbst und Fohnfrisur. 03.09.01, 21.05 Uhr. 

V. Exhibitions 

Marcks, Marie. Karikaturen der letzten 50 Jahre. 17. September 2000 bis 7. Januar 2001, 
Kurpfalzisches Museum der Stadt Heidelberg. 

100 Jahre Frauen an der Universitat Heidelberg. Alte Universitat, Heidelberg. 

Struwwelpeter international. 16. Mai - 4. Juli 2002, Universitatsmuseum Grabengasse 

Sammlung Prinzhorn. Universitatsklinikum Heidelberg. Ein Museum der eigenen und 
anderen Art. VoBstrafte 2. D-691 15 Heidelberg. 


Paintings of Genesis 3 

1 The Serpent 

The turquoise of the background is rather static, it comprises the sacred. 

The serpent is seen as a holy animal, full of wisdom, protecting the apple like a womb. 

The color gold shows the animal's importance. 

This picture is the only one with a 'frame', showing symbols of the sun, the moon, 

and the stars. Its upper part is blank and in its gold reserved for the divine, the part down 

below shows spirals which are connected with the mundane, with the earth, and therefore 

are brown. 

2 Eden 

This painting comprises only four colors: green for the paradise, gold for the sacred, 

brown for the created, red for passion. 

There is no sky as this painting represents the depth and the secret of eden. The tree has 

golden fruit, which are deliberately painted ambiguously, they can be apples, the 

forbidden fruit, or roses, the flowers of love. 

The golden ying-yang sign symbolizes the being together of two persons, who belong 

together. Their passion is demonstrated by the red. 

I wanted this picture to breathe a great quietude, because those things that are really 

sacred, go without words. [not included] 

3 Vessel of all Evil 

This picture shows the results of the fall. The three women are the representatives of 
what happened to women. The left one is depicted as the great seductress (red hair, red 
dress). But she gets stoned. The woman to the right is dressed like a woman of the 
Middle Ages. She is burned at stake. The one in the middle is silenced and wrapped up 
like a mummy. The signs sin and death cover her head, her body shows the signs 
great whore, vessel of evil, flesh, submission, mulier taceat in ecclesia (woman is 
to keep silent in the church). 

The color of the sky is turquoise, but this time it does not represent the color of the 
sacred. It has been transformed into an evil sky, as has the earth which has the color of 
the barren wilderness, "enriched" by the red of the flames, the slashes of blood. So the 
red of passion has been transformed into something evil, as well. 


4 I am Mary/ 1 loved my baby /for which eternally I must wear/ the patriarchal 
crown/ 1 beseech you, my sisters, help me remove the weight/ and lay it down. 
(Janet Crawford and Erice Webb) 

Mary is half hidden behind a richly embroidered curtain. This represents the rich 
clothes of the clergy. The green of creation is enhanced by gold, the red of passion 
encrusted by gems. Mary herself is set into a duck blue sham sky with white sham clouds. 
She herself is bloodless, as is her baby. She has to wear a crown which is much too heavy 
for her and is a mixture between a crown and a pope's miter. The red of passion is only to 
be seen in the red of the cross. Mary is totally dressed in blue and gold, showing that she 
belongs to a different realm, no longer linked with the earth. She wears Turkish slippers 
and stands on the sickle of the moon, turned the other way round for better halt. 

5 I hope you dance 

The last painting shows a Midsummer Night's dance under trees. The green is no longer 
the green of eden, but shows at least some resemblance, as do the two trees. The sky is no 
longer a sacred realm, but definitely mundane. The red of passion is on the people's 
clothes and their wreaths. The former gold has changed into yellow. The people represent 
both sexes and all ages, colors, races. The title is taken from a song by LeeAnn Womack 
"I hope you dance". This song was played in the services by Carter Heyward during the 
week of March 1 , 200 1 . 



Paintings "Jephtha's Daughter" 

1 . "Great Expectations" 

A Mediterranean landscape with an androgynous girl with a faint resemblance of Sandro 
Boticelli's "Spring." She is dressed in white, symbol of virginity. It is a veil-like material, 
so the poppies shine through, hinting at her future death, the burning at stakes. 

2. "Come ye daughters, help me wailing" 

The background is in subdued, faded pink. The wailer is alone in the middle, surrounded 
by seven mourning women in a semi circle, all dressed in brownish-black. They are 
supported by many more women like pale gray shades. They are all those women who 
suffered from male injustice in the past. 

3. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" 

The model for the white figure in the middle has been taken from the mourning figure at 
the entrance to the chapel, now opposite the Refectory. This figure kneels on a sort of 
altar with no fundament and ending up in nowhere. The blackness around the figure is 
like a shrine (Aida, Antigone) into which this figure will be put forever. The black-green 
firs are giving no hope, there is no sky, no bird, nor any other animal, no human being. 

4. "For four days every year the daughters of Israel ... go out to lament the 
daughter of Jephtha the Gileadite" 

These are no powerless women. The strong pink background, the "female" color, refers 
to it. They are exceptionally long figures, drawn in an archetypal way. Their faces 
without color resemble women of all colors, races, nations. 

5. "I will survive - will I survive?" 

After I had painted the biblical cycle, I wanted to give my version: The girl is not burnt at 
stakes. But she pays an enormous price, the memory of what her father intended to do 
with her will always be with her as long as she lives. So she is haunted by the demons of 
the past from time to time and has to be very strong, if she really wants to survive. She 
has to be humble, as well, since to my belief the humble only will survive. 
She stands on the beach, watching the sea. (Later this reminded me of Caspar David 
Friedrich's painting "Monk At Sea.") She is alone, but she is alive. [Not included] 

6. "Regaining dignity" 

These figures are still surrounded by what they have experienced, but they have 
overcome. A fellow student told me: "They look as if they were getting larger every 


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Episcopal Divinity School: Author (middle) and fellow students 




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